George Raftopoulos, Paddington, NSW
Images by Saskia Wilson
This week on the IN BED Journal we’re delighted to meet charismatic artist George Raftopoulos at the beautiful terrace he shares with his wife Denise and two daughters Bella and Mimi. We spoke to George about his impressive and ever evolving body of work, some of his favourite local haunts, and a few projects on the horizon for the rest of this year.
“We moved into this place in January after living in our previous house for eleven years after returning from living in New York. We quite literally moved around the corner but thought it was time to see the other side of Paddington. We love this house because it’s surrounded by big, beautiful trees and has a great natural flow.”
“I love the sense of community in Paddington and we are constantly ‘on the street’ so to speak. Some of my best ideas, thoughts and plans have come to me traversing the streets of Paddo! My favourite part is William Street where many great small independent shops are to be found similar to that of Notting Hill in the U.K. I enjoy a great coffee at Tuckerbox cafe and the Saturday morning chaos at Alimentary cafe is always great for a catch up with both locals and friends. I enjoy a good rummage through Berkelouw Books, mostly upstairs in the second hand section. Paddington is always changing and morphing with interesting people that I believe add to its charm as a creative destination.”
Some of my best ideas, thoughts and plans have come to me traversing the streets of Paddo!
“Our bedroom is our sanctuary and a place of calm and retreat… I have my most prized possessions here that include Greek Icons from my Great grandmother's home in Corfu where I managed to prise them away from my parents. Also a painting by the celebrated John Olsen that I purchased when I was 19 from Tim Olsen back in the day when I exhibited with him in his gallery which is actually two doors down from where we now live! I have small sculptures that I made for my children on my bedside table to remember to always be playful and to never take oneself too seriously. There’s also a small collage/drawing that my father in law created who passed away a few years ago that also sits in memory as he was a great man and artist.”
Our bedroom is our sanctuary and a place of calm and retreat.
George began his journey into the arts at the University of Western Sydney and the Sydney College of the Arts in the 90’s
“Studying in Sydney at that time was truly terrific as I was allowed to roam free and to be totally experimental without judgement or hindrance. I think as an art student this is imperative as it is a time for experimentation and freedom.”
“ [Stepping into the commercial art world] happened by complete accident. I was in my third year at university and would visit Barry Stern Gallery in Paddington often. One day I plucked up the courage to ask Dominic Maunsell (who still runs the gallery to this day!) if he would take a look at my work. He was in awe and told me to show Tim Olsen and from that day on the die was cast, I have exhibited and sold my work ever since 1993.”
“My ‘flame thrower’ is ‘truth’... I find this as the paramount thread to my work. This is why I reference military figures constantly as I attempt to reduce them to human status as opposed to idolised and glorified victors. Through my work I attempt to peel away ‘given’ notions and reveal truths about certain situations. My work is also laden in a personal mythology almost a credo for living …..One which I believe also shrouds itself in positivity and hope. ‘This is where I reference the Greek notion of the ‘IKON’ so that the paintings become beacons of hope and justice.”
My ‘flame thrower’ is ‘truth’... I find this as the paramount thread to my work.
“My works are seldom predisposed or pre-planned. I believe in ‘fluxus’ meaning things have to be pure and of the moment. I believe a successful painting or sculpture must contain levels of complexity and nurture... akin to listening to a beautiful piece of music. The paintings undergo immense change both swiftly and with patience as the imagery itself is a delicate balance between fine mark making made with fine small brushes and also wild gestural marks… this makes one realise that a great work is the sum of all parts!”
“[For the rest of the year] I am currently working on a mammoth architectural project for a fifty storey development in the heart of Sydney, it interests me greatly to move into the public art space as this will be a monolithic project that will grace the cityscape. I also have an exhibition opening on April 6th at Artereal Gallery in Rozelle called ‘Perfect Non-Perfect’, so these are exciting times ahead.”