Fish and Dragon, Thief and Magician

Having left the world of computer-based commercial art, Australian artist Michael Raftos now conjures surreal and fantastical beings and realms using only pencil, paper-board and eraser. He likes the purity of this approach and does not rely on tricks, special effects or algorithms of any kind. He draws from intuition, never fully sure how the final piece is going to turn out. Sketching, for him, is about deriving meaning. He tries to create a narrative which can articulate what is happening in his life on a personal level. And he hopes that what he produces is interesting enough for others to enjoy. Michael’s website is www.raftos.com. He is also on Artplode (www.artplode.com/artists/artist/Michael-Raftos). Some of his works are featured below:                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                               

Fishermen by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.
“With this image,” says Michael, “I was trying to depict the transcending of duality. People have been hunting and eating fish for a very long time and that has shaped the evolution and behaviour of fish. Likewise, when one eats a fish, they are changed chemically and physically. Since both humans and fish help to shape each other, it could be said that people and fish are really the one entity. The idea that we are separate from fish is only that. An idea. Depicting the fish-animal hybrids helps blur the boundaries of the relationship. I am using the relationship between fish and fishermen to describe a greater concept. A relationship between opposites is an entity in itself.”
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Final Machine by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
Here, Michael explains: “This is a quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s book Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1891). It is often considered a triumphant and liberating idea for Western culture. In a way it is, but as you can see from the rest of the quote, Nietzsche was a little worried about the idea. If you kill God, then you must take full responsibility for you life. For all your fortunes and all your misfortunes. We in Western civilization are finding it an incredibly exhausting idea to take full responsibility for our lives. Sometimes it’s a relief to have decisions made for one. Perhaps our quest for AI might be a resurrection of God. To create someone to take some of the responsibility away from us. Although some believe we don’t need a higher order to submit to, I believe it’s necessary to give up a measure of control, else we become the fascists of our own lives and burn out.”
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St. George and the Dragon by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

St. George (AD 275–281 to AD 303) was a soldier in the army of the Roman emperor Diocletian. A Christian martyr and patron of several countries, cities and occupations, he is most famous for the legend of the dragon. Michael says: “It’s a classic hero myth. In this drawing the dragon represents my hunger. That’s why the dragon is all mouth and tentacle. I was trying to inspire myself to overcome my hungers and control them. It didn’t really work. I was a bit foolish. For a long time I have tried to beat my hungers into submission. I had some success, but ultimately my hungers won out. Perhaps I will do a follow up to this drawing where St George is having a cordial, peaceful and cooperative relationship with the dragon.”

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Magician by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“This image depicts the idea of scalable creation. Mastering things on a small scale leads to mastering things on a larger scale. Developing small habits leads to larger stronger habits. This might be the portal for creating or changing anything in life.”
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Narcissists are Reflective People by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“It’s a commonly held perspective that self-reflection is a positive thing. After all Socrates famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living”. It’s also a popular belief that narcissism is a bad thing. I often wonder if too much self-reflection leads to narcissism. Or maybe self-reflection could be a bad thing if one’s mind has a tendency to rely on masks.”

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Mutineer by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“Last year I left the city and moved to the country. To a large extent, I dropped out of the world. Partly as an act of defiance and partly out of exhaustion. It has been lonely yet interesting to get a perspective of the world in isolation. Sartre said that “Hell is other people”. I think that’s a little harsh, but it is interesting to experience life free from the constraint of others points of view.”

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Imagineer by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“This image is strongly linked to “Magician”. It describes the same idea of scalable creation only using the power of imagination to create one’s world. I’d prefer to live my life where imagination rather than necessity is the mother of invention.”

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Tea Thief by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“When I drew this, I was imagining a scene in the future. Sitting in a little room that I had not yet built and drawing a picture, while catching a saboteur drinking out of my mug. Strangely enough, this scene is currently playing out in my life. I have built this little room and there seems to be little saboteur stealing my attention. I’m not sure what he wants. I’m not yet sure what to do about it.”

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Going Home by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

 

“I was living in Melbourne, Australia. A long term relationship I was in had ended. I quit my job. I was building a little house for myself and the winter has stopped my progress. I decided to drive westward to Adelaide. Back home to the place where I grew up, to spend time with my family and work in my sister’s funeral home. An old way of living for me was dying. As I was driving into the setting sun, the light was such that there was no distinction between the sky and the road. There was no distinction between heaven and earth. Quite strange how the outer world can reflect our inner world sometimes.”

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Momento Mori by Michael Raftos. Used with permission.

“‘Remember that you have to die’. I was working in my sister’s funeral home at the time I drew this. I had the grim duty of taking bodied from the coroners to get CT and MRI autopsies. I spent hours looking at computer screens of images of the insides of bodies as the operator searched for causes of death. In all that time, it was impossible for me not to consider my own death. I gained an understanding as to why people used to place skulls on their desks and why monks always keep death on their shoulder.”


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