Raftopoulous' edgy painting that breathes life into the past,
THURSDAY 12 JUNE, 2014
Raftopoulous surprises with a new suite of paintings, Beaux Monde, that seemingly squeeze the past and present out of his tube.
Opening 13 June at the warehouse gallery Mclemoi, in Sydney’s art precinct of Chippendale, is an exhibition of new works by George Raftopoulos, a Greek-born painter who grew up in rural NSW.
This new body of paintings while typically brushy and confidently gestural, goes beyond mapping Raftopoulos’ own memories and rather presents as a witty subversion of our collective cultural memory.
In this exhibition Beaux Monde, Raftopoulos presents us with a roll call of western masters - Velasquez, El Greco, Goya – Spanish noblemen and ‘glitterati of their day’ that he has irreverently torn apart and reconstructed. He has even inserted himself into Picasso’s harlequins and sighted himself at edges of Parisian society in the painting Self portrait of the Artist as Outsider, describing himself as a kind of Duchampian “art thief” - his ‘recycling is a savage rupturing of the holy icons of the artworld,’ said essayist Luise Guest.
Duplicate (2014); Courtesy the artist and Mclemoi Gallery.
These paintings are, foremost, rich layered investigations of identity that revel in the sheer joy of painting – colour, gesture, and surface add to the viewer’s experience and the theatricality of the Beaux Monde series. While they are arguably more “figurative” or literal than Raftopoulos’s long trajectory of paintings, they undoubtedly celebrate the same spirit – the same passion for paint.
Guest’s text accompanying the exhibition states: ‘The practice of George Raftopoulos – a kind of scavenging of the flotsam and jetsam of life; a sorting through the accretions of the past and a re-imagining of his own memories of childhood, family, culture and ancestry – can be likened to salvage.’
‘Raftopoulos likes to keep us guessing,’ added Guest – and this exhibition Beaux Monde is yet another delightful chapter in that journey. It’s not enough for him to 'show' us what he has seen in his travels. Raftopoulos wants us to 'experience' what 'he' has experienced. 'It's like l'm trying to extract the truth and the pure essence,' he has said.
"Saltimbanques oranges" (2014) oil on Japanese Linen; Courtesy the artist and Mclemoi Gallery.
George Raftopoulos: Beaux Monde
13 – 24 June
Mclemoi Gallery, Chippendale