What a pleasure it has been to not only have had my eyes opened to the artwork of George Raftopoulos but also to be able to be part of his audience via Instagram and get to know him over time. It was a few years ago I was introduced to George’s artwork via a gallery I was managing. I felt an instant connection to his works. His paintings resonate with me in so many ways. His use of line creates a sense of strength and freedom while there is a looseness in his work; along-side a sense of placement and belonging. I love his use of colour and automatically sense so many feelings from this. I find myself completely hypnotised by so many of the paintings that it takes me to another place, inspiring me in my own pursuits and making me reflect on the past as well as the exciting future.
Over the past year or so I have started to know George more. What I love is George’s passion for not only his art, but his family and their life together. When we caught up for a Skype call recently, he was out for the morning with his wife and two daughters. I find it wonderful to see such a strong family bond and everyone part of the creativity, inspiring each other every day. It was great to chat more to George about his artworks and inspiration.
TMHS: Tell me a little of your background and how it influenced you to pursue a career as an artist.
GR: My background is one of many, many layers… and in hindsight I feel blessed to have such a background! I grew up in a rural town, 4.5 hrs south west of Sydney. It was quite an eye opener, one which instilled in me an appreciation for the land. I also believe it forced me to look at my Greek-ness with earnest as we were the only Greeks in the town, so apart from my immediate family, I had never met a Greek person or its cultural aspersions ever in my life. Thus, being so removed from it, I found it fuelled my fire to learn the language; to read and write. Consequently, I am appreciative of this time in the rural areas as it taught me to respect and encompass all that rural life represents.
TMHS: You are quite close to your wife and two daughters. What part do they play in the overall process for creating artworks? Are they actively involved? Tell me some more of their influence on your life as an artist.
GR: My wife is my biggest critic and advocate!! Indelibly I know or recognise when certain works are not working. However, she is my constant and my confidant, not only to pull me out of the creative fire, but in life. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to her for this. She is an amazingly strong woman; and kudos to that! Further, we live in a creatively rich household and our two daughters celebrate this divine madness with us daily. They believe in the notion of ‘freedom in expression’, which is what we instil in our existence, so for this it is important to our psyche.
TMHS: Are you quite planned with your artworks or more spontaneous?
GR: Absolutely, categorically NOT!! The best things happen by pure accident. Plans are only meant to be broken! I attack a canvas without pre-planning, only with pure gusto and intent relying on intuition to guide me through it’s path. I am the vehicle for expression, so therefore I rely heavily on my ‘gut’ instinct.
TMHS: Are you drawn to certain colours when painting? If so, tell me more about this.
GR: Usually I reference something I have noted from memory. For example, of late I have been utilising flouro pink in reference to its association with referencing safety buoys in the water to warn people of danger etc, as they bobble up and down against a Paynes grey sky. I love that this flouro, lurid colour signifies something different to so many people, yet it still alerts them to something. It has a universal meaning, therefore I am translating this meaning into my work.
TMHS: You currently live in Sydney however have spent time working and living in New York. How do the two locations compare for you as an Artist?
GR: New York can be cold and impersonal. It also can be sterile. We were there on and off for five years traveling like Gypsy’s between here and Sydney. It is this notion of movement that excites me… where it be Sydney and NY or LA and Sydney as long as I am moving I am happy. To compare the two would be difficult, however there is one universal truth; people are people no matter where you are!!! The only highlight is that NY has a established art world that far surpasses that of the Australian system at present. However, with time Australia will have it’s time in the sun akin to the Chinese and the Russians, and when it happens I will be waiting!!!
TMHS: What has been, or still is the biggest influence on your career?
GR: Travel and the notion that anything is possible!!!! BE FEARLESS and attack everything with GUSTO. When people say NO, allow that to fuel your fire to a YES!!!!
TMHS: Do you listen to music when you are painting? If so, what might one hear if they were in your studio when you are painting?
GR: My tastes are eclectic as I think It would be unfair to pin point one movement of music. However, a huge influence has been the onset of Internet radio whereby I can now listen the BBC Proms, or a Jazz station in France with French Arabic Rai, or Rap music!!!! Intrinsically music serves as a tool to send us somewhere via memory or thought, therefore this is an automatic thought process for me whilst immersing in music!!
TMHS: Three things you can’t do without in your day?!
GR: Water, a kiss from girls, and fresh air!!!
TMHS: I consider you quite a stylish man on so many levels. How do you define style?
GR: Style is the ability to be open to be eclectic in ones choices. Style is made up of so many classic moments… and it is how one embraces those moments that style is formed.
TMHS: Favourite item of clothing?
GR: My bottle Green MIU MIU suit that I purchased when I was 20. It still fits, it is a classic and I still wear it today!
TMHS: Any up and coming exhibitions you are involved in?
GR: I have a few that I am working presently. One in particular that I am excited about is that with my wife as she is completing her MFA in Arts Administration here in Sydney at COFA. We have been discussing doing an exciting project between here and China. It is in its early stages but will be developed by next year!
TMHS: Where can people see your artwork?
GR: Well currently I am private and my works are being held under wraps until I am ready to unleash them onto the world…..I have forcibly removed myself from the commercial sphere. I am taking a sabbatical which I think is a healthy proposition. As my work is under Flux!!!
TMHS: Where can people find you online?
GR: I am an Instagram junkie… so my craziness which represents the every day thought process is there for all to see however the finished product is quite private!!
(TMHS: Find George on instagram @graftopoulos)
TMHS: Any final words for readers of The Man Has Style?
GR: I believe that style is a cultured notion and is successful when it is eclectic. Style embodies a person’s everyday; it either finds you; caresses you in every way either via your output i.e. ART or dress; or it eludes you and one is left celebrating other people’s style. I certainly know which side of the style fence I sit on…
Find more on George Raftopoulos at www.georgeraftopoulos.com