From Sharne Wolff…
Artist George Raftopoulos has revelled in his spot as a Sydney art world insider–outsider for some years. Having hopped from gallery to gallery Mythic Nation confirms he’s settling in well at Artereal with this large show of paintings and ceramic works. Sometimes tagged Australia’s answer to Jean-Michel Basquiat, one similarity between the pair is the prolific nature of their output. Like Basquiat, Raftopoulos also loves a dig at the art world – realised ever so gently here in the work Museum Quality.
Sadly, Basquiat didn’t make it past his twenties, while Raftopoulos’ work has benefited from maturity. Despite their loose childlike appearance and apparent freehand style, the majority of his intuitively painted works retain a pared-back sense of control. Given that much of his work is autobiographical, Raftopoulos’ Greek heritage is often laid bare in his work, aided by the use of his own Hellenic-style ‘Greenglish’ text and ancient fable. In Mythic Nation there’s a repetition of subjects – sea captains and figures in boats are some that feature heavily. References to immigrants past and present, Australia’s current immigration policies and the plight of Syrian refugees in Greece abound as Raftopoulos ponders questions surrounding identity and nationhood. Common also to many of Raftopoulos’ paintings is the recurrent motif of an outstretched or gesturing arm. Ambiguous naive figures with stick-like arms and fingers extend a greeting or perhaps reach out to the viewer. And there lies the beauty of the best of Raftopoulos’ paintings – with their clever use of shape, colour and narrative they literally pull you in and won’t let go.
Until November 12
Artereal Gallery, Rozelle
Pic: George Raftopoulos, Horse and Ryder_2015_mixed media on board_14.8 x 29.5cm (image size) / 41 x 38.5cm (framed size)_$950. Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery.