Tony Garifalakis’ practice over the past two decades has constituted an examination of social relations and the semiotics of power. His work particularly engages the ways in which the meaning of signs, symbols and images might be ascribed, conveyed or transformed through culture, and how conventional notions of hierarchy and status might be undermined or subverted. Garifalakis interrogates social, political, artistic and religious systems of belief – as well as the institutions that uphold them – through a range of strategies that include amplification of the signifiers utilised by those institutions themselves; subversive juxtaposition of image and text; and the deployment of dark, incongruous humour. Previously, Garifalakis has utilised the imagery from various of his own subcultural interests to consider the ways in which such iconography infiltrates popular culture.
Most recently these concerns have manifest in works such as Affirmations, a body of work that explores belief systems underpinning both New Age movements and gun culture groups; Anti-Christs, an ongoing project examining various conspiracy theories, specifically the attempts made to identify and name the Anti-Christ; and Mob Rule, in which portraits of powerful figures such as heads of state, royalty and military leaders are obscured with black paint. These works are reflective of the artist’s broader concerns around the signification of authority and the legitimacy of those who wield it. They are also both humorous and politically charged – a deft combination that continues to underscore Gariflalakis’ work to powerful effect.
TONY GARIFALAKIS completed a Master of Fine Art (Painting) at RMIT University in 2000. Recent solo exhibitions include Mob Rule, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2014; Angels of the bottomless pit, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2014; Warlords, Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide, 2014; Affirmations, Daine Singer, Melbourne, 2012; The Misery of Philosophy, Curro Y Poncho, Guadalajara, Mexico and The Philosophy of Misery, Yautepec Gallery, Mexico City, both 2011. His work has also been presented in a number of major curatorial projects and group exhibitions, including Pleasure and Reality, National Gallery of Victoria, 2015; Neverwhere, Gaia Gallery, Istanbul, 2015: Dark Heart, the Adelaide Biennial of Australian art, 2014; Whisper in my Mask, TarraWarra Biennial, TarraWarra Museum of Art, 2014; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, 2013; Theatre of the world, Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, 2012; Things Fall Apart, Artspace, Sydney and Negotiating this world: contemporary Australian art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2012. Garifalakis’ work is held in numerous public collections in Australia, including Monash University; Art Gallery of South Australia; Museum of Old and New Art; and the National Gallery of Victoria. He has recently undertaken several studio residencies, including the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York in 2008, and currently lectures at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.