Jim Thalassoudis
by Eugene Barilo von Reisberg

Hesperios - Of The Evening, Western 2005 Touring Exhibition catalogue essay

Cowwarr Art Space, Cowwarr, Victoria
Penny School Gallery, Maldon, Victoria
Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, Victoria

"But there's no such thing as a black cloud", a lady was heard to remark while looking at a recent painting by Jim Thalassoudis.

"Had you been in Sydney during the fires of 2002" the artist answered quietly, "the smoke hung heavy like patches of black cotton wool in the sky, creating a band of violet just above the water level, with red and azure interplaying in the background as the sun was quietly sinking beyond the horizon in the west, all the way to the land of Hesperus..."

Jim Thalassoudis' paintings result from this intense observation of the sky and its minute changes in hue and colour. His works force you to raise your eyes above the street with its incessant traffic and loud neon signs, to where the sunset glimmers against the Victorian domes of town halls and railway stations, and where, the slender tips of cypresses and pines brush the clouds subtly changing their tints of yellows, pinks, blues and purples. You can be sure to see what the artist captures - every colour of the city atmosphere often sharply nuanced by urban pollution.

The genesis of these works dates back to the late 1980s when the artist became interested in the interplay of image and sculpture in Gothic and Byzantine altarpieces, and particularly in the way their frames imitated the architecture of the building. This led to a series of works that echoed Byzantine icons in their heavily sculpted and bejewelled oklads . Secular imagery, however, replaced the religious. Trees, towers, domes and clouds were encased in gilded, sculpted frames of the artist's own making - often infused with design elements inspired by the images within; these ranged from elegant Edwardian architecture, through the angularity of 1930s Art Deco skyscrapers, to the idiosyncratic geometry of freeway sound barriers. The result, whether free-standing or mountable as a wall piece, with its blending of painting and sculpture and its utilisation of varying, often conflicting, artistic styles, was always in keeping with Thalassoudis' post-modern idiom.

As the series progressed, the paintings freed themselves from their monumental frames – the two literally separating to hang side by side to co-exist as elegant pairs. These self-contained land and skyscapes would hang beside their gilt or graphite panels (often arranged in multiples as a frieze) which in turn echoed the mood and atmosphere of the painting; they could be read as a minimalist wall sculptures or, if you will, a constructivist black square in 3D.

The current exhibition continues Thalassoudis' painting / sculpture exploration. The diptychs and polyptychs are now increasingly replaced by more varied combinations where the artist's sculpted frames do not necessarily surround a painting in a traditional way, but are rather interspersed within it or, in some instances, are completely surrounded by it.

In his works on paper, these sculpted objects morph into elegant phantom squares of gold leaf or graphite, and float beside his exquisitely painted glimpses of the sky, with coloured clouds floating by, or, in some instances, anchored by a glistening spire or a towering tree-top. The execution is so fine as to induce the eye into believing that we are looking at the latest production of a new-fangled printing tech nique rather than a painterly creation of the human hand.

The leit-motif of this exhibition still remains the Hesperian: defined by the Greeks as "of the evening, western", the word alludes to that mystic land in mythology - to the west, beyond the Arcadian mountains - where the sun rested after its daily journey in a garden where beautiful nymphs, the Hesperides, guarded the fruit of the sacred apple trees.

But the artist keeps a firm grip on the pulse of everyday reality. "Looking west at evening", Thalassoudis says, "you do not find Arcadia ... What you may find is seductive beauty in a sunset tarnished by pollution. The grass is not greener elsewhere, no matter how beautiful the vista is."

"The seduction of momentary beauty in an evening sky is an elusive thing, but here it is frozen in paint on canvas. The gilding alludes to perfection, timelessness and preciousness; however, it is worn and tarnished. In these paintings, even the fold has aged like human skin"...

This touring exhibition is a collaborative project between the artist, the Cowwarr Art Space in Gippsland, the Penny School Gallery, Maldon, and the Charles Nodrum Gallery in Melbourne . It will give art lovers in Victoria a chance to admire and acquire work by this gifted South Australian painter. Each exhibition will be subtly different to best suit each venue in turn.

Biographical Note:

Jim Thalassoudis (b. 1962), Adelaide-based painter, has held regular solo exhibitions since 1985 in Melbourne , Adelaide , Sydney & Canberra , and recently extended this acclaim in Singapore & New York. His works were included in curated exhibitions throughout Australia and overseas, most notably at the Art Gallery of South Australia , the Contemporary Arts Centre of South Australia , the Manly Art Gallery & Museum, and the Riddoch Art Gallery , Mt Gambier. Commercial centres include the World Trade Centre (Singapore), Anima Gallery (Singapore), Robert Steele Gallery (New York), Philip Neville Gallery (Darwin), as well as the Contemporary Art Fairs in Melbourne and Sydney.

The artist has attained curatorial and collectors' following, and his works have been acquired by the Art Bank, Art Gallery of South Australia, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Riddoch Art Gallery, Mildura Arts Centre, Parliament House Collection, University of South Australia Art Museum; corporate collections include Faulding Pharmaceuticals, United Airlines (Singapore), Southcorp, ANA Hotel, Duxton Hotels, Crown Casino, Adelaide Bank, Blake Dawson Waldron and JB Were & Sons among others.

Important publications include Neville Drury's New Art Eight (1993), Images 2 (1994) as well as regular reviews in recent media and art publications.