George Raftopoulos was born in Sydney in 1972, the son of Greek parents. In the 1970s, the Raftopouloses found themselves to be the only Greek family in the New South Wales town of Grenfell. George had questions of cultural identity in his youth and continues to do so in his paintings today.
George Raftopoulos speaks of his painting as “mapping the memory”. He refers to his paintings incorporating fragmentary references to places he has been, events he has witnessed, and sensations he has experienced. He refers, too, to his paintings touching aspects of his race memory, aspects of his cultural lineage.
Raftopoulos’s paintings have always possessed an expressionist fierceness. He describes his method of painting as an “interactive process”, in that it is undertaken without the safety net of preliminary studies. His work of the mid-1990s was peopled by human/animal hybrids, inhabiting a world that combined playfulness with anxiety and apprehension. Line plays a key role in his current painting, and his line is both economical and swift. It is as firm and elastic as cartilage. Most of Raftopoulos’s works of the last couple of years have turned on a single colour, which sets the temper of the painting. Recently that sole colour has often been a primary colour.
Many of Raftopoulos’s paintings are inscribed with a single word, printed in the Greek alphabet. These are generally references to figures in history, particularly Greek history, whose presence or actions have influenced the outcome of events that touch us still.
As well as Greek words, his paintings often incorporate numerals, usually dual digits. Their significance remains entirely oblique: they may relate to sensitive military formations, engineering calculations, dates, or map coordinates; they may have secret strategic import, or they may be utterly innocuous. They are Delphic and inscrutable.
-Peter Pinson – Professor – College of Fine Arts – UNSW