The Darwin doctor passionate about bringing Greek history and mythology to life with his art

Combining his passions for sketching and painting Greek heroes Theofilos Rigas uncovers his Hellenic spirit to share with the world

Although Theofilios Rigas is a doctor by trade, working tirelessly at the hospital in Darwin, shift work that sometimes sees him there in the early hours of the day, art has always been something he has to do.

He told Neos Kosmos it’s difficult to explain, like he almost doesn’t have a choice.

“People do ask me that sometimes,” he said when asked if art is ‘just’ a side thing.

“It’s not something I regard as a hobby or a side thing, it’s actually something that I need to do.

“I think it comes from a little bit of a deeper place than just someone who enjoys art.

“Medicine is my career and my job and it is still a passion of mine too, but I think my art is something very close to me.”

Herakles. “High above his noble birth tower his deeds of prowess, for his toil secured this life of calm for man, having destroyed all fearsome beasts.” – Euripides. Image: Supplied

The 25-year-old Greek-Cypriot Australian finished medical school last year and is planning to become a GP specialist.

But away from that, he paints and sketches on what he is most passionate about – fantasy, iconic characters and people and most of all Greek history and mythology.

“The other passion of mine, something that I hold just as much, maybe even more so than art is Greek history and mythology, especially ancient history,” Rigas said.

“I’ve read the likes of Herodotus, the histories and the campaigns of Alexander by Arrian and Plutarch and of course, the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer.

“I think love of Greek history and my passion for art, they kind of merge together and sort of meld really well.”

Rigas also likes to sketch, with Greek history and mythology a strong point of inspiration. Photo: Supplied

He said he hopes to bring these stories to life a little bit and that his passion for Greek history is then brought to life through art as well.

“I think Greek history is something that always inspires me.”

Some of his sketches and oil paintings depict the likes of Herakles, Perseus, Circe the witch of Aeaea and Athena.

Others are of a Spartan warrior standing before the Hot Gates (Thermopylae), and one in honour of March 25 Greek Independence Day.

Rigas is currently doing a series of oil paintings on notable Greek characters through history.

The Spartan. At the bottom of the painting can be read in Ancient Greek, Simonides’ epitaph: Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by That here, obedient to their laws, we lie. Image: Supplied

He has also created artwork unrelated to Greek history or mythology, but sometimes even those have him thinking back on Hellenism.

To accompany one sketch of a man on a horse with a dragon flying by, he used the following quote from English writer Neil Gaiman.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

In Rigas’ opinion this reveals a bit of truth about Hellenic spirit.

“The Greeks in actual history, every time that we’re faced with insurmountable odds and the Greek identity is possibly at the brink of destruction, whether that was with the Persians or with Turkish occupation, or other times throughout history… where it’s seemingly impossible to overcome the odds like in World War II, I would say Greek bravery is always shown. And I think it parallels mythology.”

1821. Image: Theofilos Rigas

In early June, Rigas showed his art at Darwin GleNTi for the first time.

He believed the Greek festival was missing some artistic view of Greece, and his art was able to accompany some bit of text about Greek myths and history. Bringing them to life for people to see.

Further to that he said everyone is proud to be Greek, but thinks we actually need to know why.

Rigas is proud of his heritage, coming from Cyprus and the Greek island of Kalymnos. His love of history has seen him visit Thermopylae and the historical sites up in Pella.

March 25, 1821. I recognise you from the blade of your fearsome sword, I recognise you from your gaze, with which purpose surveys the Earth, From the fallen bones of the sacred Greeks of old, As you were once be valiant again, Hail, O hail, Liberty. Image: Theofilos Rigas

In 2020, he wrote a poem that came in third place at a competition by the Greek Australian Cultural League of Melbourne.

“I wrote this poem as a reminder to the Greeks of who they are and their heritage. A reminder of all those who came before us and a reminder to never forget them.”

“Most importantly, I hope the poem helps to reveal to each Greek the courageous spirit of their ancestors which lives in us all.

“It is easy to forget in the modern age how many threats the Greeks have faced to their very existence over thousands of years, but each time, against seemingly insurmountable odds, the Hellenic Spirit is triumphant in preserving the survival and freedom of the Greeks and in spreading the fruits of Greek culture to the rest of the world.”

You can see more of his artwork on Facebook and Instagram, The Art of Theofilos Rigas.