Exhibition explores colonialism
Saturday, 29th February, 2020
By Callum Marshall
An exhibition exploring colonisation, our own belief systems and the iconography surrounding that has just opened at the Regional Art Gallery.
Titled ‘Ikona’, the Greek word for image, the exhibition is by artist George Raftopoulos whose works delve into sometimes complicated and confronting territory.
The decision to focus on colonialism and Captain Arthur Phillip as a figure within the exhibition, he said, was informed from a previous exhibit in Canberra and wanting people to question their own beliefs.
“I was invited to exhibit in Canberra and I thought I’d be a bit cheeky and create all these works around post-colonialism and colonialism,” said Mr Raftopoulos.
“And that’s why the whole sort of notion of utilising Captain Phillip’s silhouette is present in most of the pictures.
“I wanted to tear down the notion of colonisation and everything that’s attributed to it.
“Almost put the person who’s standing in front of the paintings, the viewer, to become that person that is Captain Phillip. The person who has come from somewhere else.
“And most have come from somewhere else. None of us are really from here except the Traditional Land Owners of course.
“And make the viewer, as Captain Phillip, have that dialogue about where they’re from and what their belief system is.”
That theme of what we’ve grown up believing in and the imagery and symbolism behind that was a core part of the exhibition, he said, with the title ‘Ikona’ key to that.
“’Ikona’ is traditionally in the Greek Orthodox Church,” said Mr Raftopoulos.
“Being the son of a Greek father, the ‘icon’ is paramount in its presence in the church because a lot of people instil such belief in an image of representation.
“And I suppose for some people seeing Captain Phillip’s silhouette, his image of representation, either put them on his side or the opposite side.
“That’s why I use the silhouette to bastardise that whole notion of what we should believe and what we’re told to believe through history.
“So I’m asking you to make up your own mind and delve a little deeper.”
The inspiration for the exhibition’s theme, said Mr Raftopoulos, was also informed by a sense of belonging and having others question his place within society when he was younger.
“Having grown up in rural New South Wales and being predominately the only kind of ‘wog kid’ in a country town, there were a lot of questions that were always put in front of me because of who I was,” he said.
“I was born here, I’m just as Australian as everybody else but there was always that question ‘am I Greek, am I Australian? Where do I belong?’
“Back in the 70s in these country towns it wasn’t pretty to be of Greek extraction.”
He said the underlying theme was that whole question of who we are as people and where do we come from.
“We’re told to have certain belief systems due to geographical location and lineage,” said Mr Raftopoulos.
“By default, I was brought up Greek Orthodox. But what does that mean?
“Just because at a default you’re Greek, do you believe in that Greek belief system?
“And my answer is ‘no I don’t.’
“I’m questioning the whole lineage of religion, the language.
“All these things have been boiling away in my mind for the past 25-30 years.
“And I want us all to stop and think about what do we stand for?”
Mr Raftopoulos will be painting today and encouraging the community to come and join in.
“It’s an open invitation for people to come and join in. It’s not just for me to be doing,” he said.
“And I just think that if there’s one kid or two kids that get something from it that might inspire them to want to go on and study art or become an artist or look further into it because it makes them feel good.
“I love giving back like that, and that’s the whole ethos behind the live painting.”
WHAT: Live Painting with George Raftopoulos
WHEN: Today, 10am-4PM
WHERE: Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery