There’s a T-shirt out there ruefully misquoting a classic line from Shakespeare, “If the world is a stage, then I want better lighting.”

For Gretta Garbo this was a sobering point, since she knew all too well good lighting transformed her from a handsome woman with a strong jaw into a diaphanous creature bathing in milk.

Then there’s Caravaggio’s remarkable skill in realising the viscerality of human flesh through a ray of sunlight, even if the Church considered the outcome lacking the ‘saintliness’ they commissioned this painter’s work for in the first place.

The other is Rembrandt whose bread and butter work were portraits of 17th Century merchants and looking at some of his subjects, good lighting may have been their only source of salvation.

Painter, Jim Thalassoudis is all about perfect lighting and he has made a career out of framing it both literally and poetically.

In the early part of his life he was an obsessive sunset chaser, travelling hundreds of miles to capture its various skeins of airy perfection.

Appropriately at that time he worked as a professional framer, but made his employment entirely conditional. If a good sunset happened to be around the corner he was permitted to drop everything, jump in a car with his camera, so he could capture that precious window period majestically referred to as the gloaming.

Just like video killed the radio star, film has done a fine job of undermining the relevance of painters capturing realism. The result being, we have been bombarded with willy-nilly imagery to such a stupefying extent the realist image has now lost much of its original value.

Now whether this is to do with the fact that any damn fool with a camera ‘can take a picture’, it’s understandable why abstract painting has maintained such a long tenure in the galleries of the 20th Century.

Thalassoudis has a new exhibition, ‘Recent Work’ which opened last week at the Nodrum Gallery in Melbourne. Ironically, and maybe not intentionally, the gallery is currently hanging an equal share of both representational and abstract art. Unfortunately Thalassoudis was not available for interview, but his curator Charles Nodrum kindly stepped in to speak for his work.

“I first encountered Jim Thalassoudis’ work in the ’80s when he was producing miniature paintings encased in these extraordinary frames,” said Nodrum. These frames could be described as being similar to those ancient cases that contained the sacred remains of a saint.

“But over the years his work has changed a great deal from the very small to the very large, “ continued Nodrum.
These days Thalassoudis seems to have found a balance with size and his style now has a photo realist eye with a warm painterly finish that film can only dream of reaching.

“And Thalassoudis is one of the finest painters in this country for this kind of work,” Nodrum said. He then went on to say that often lovers of realist or representational art tend to be drawn to it, opposed to abstract art, because the images are more recognisable, as well as the extraordinary skill behind this kind of work.

“But skill is not necessarily the key to being a good artist, you need an interesting vision, ” added Nodrum.

Although this argument of having that balance of skill and imagination might be overly familiar to many, the skill issue has become more relevant in the light of new technologies and the popularisation of purely concept-based art forms.

Thalassoudis’ high skill level is very present in his latest exhibition. What is more evident though, is the warmth of his eye towards essentially non-human subjects. That is, he’s not dealing with the fleshy palette of a Caravaggio, for example, a weathered motel sign, a distant airplane receding into dusk or the side of a truck turning on a highway capturing the last of the day’s sun.

To call this work sentimental or romantic would be inaccurate, it’s more modest and far more reassuring than that. There’s perhaps a desire to point out fleeting or hard to see instances of beauty in an otherwise banal, industrialised landscape.

Because what Thalassoudis has captured is fundamentally and not apparently beautiful, as well as reminding us that our natural world has no real choice but to brush up against the man-made on a daily basis.

Charles Nodrum Gallery: 267 Church Street, Richmond, Melbourne. Dates: Nov 25 to Dec 18, 2010