An Australian Artist’s Decidedly Modern Twist on the Sunset

Australian artist Jim Thalassoudis’s colorful, photo-realistic landscape paintings follow the lead of romantic painters like J.M.W. Turner, though they bear a decidedly modern twist, often including neon signage and bright lights from cityscapes and cruise liners, contrasted against sunsets in the background. For Thalassoudis, the last moments of a sunset fading to the night sky are ones to be preserved. “The sky changes dramatically, the colors can be both intense and subtle…the mystery of the night begins to envelope the land,” Thalassoudis says. “The day ends, a marking of time.” He works from photographs he’s taken of his intended subjects, though at times he forgoes the photograph for his own intuition, relying instead on his years of experience painting sunsets.

Love Art (2014) features a bright red, giant heart-shaped sign displaying in neon lights, “Love Art Open 7 Days.” The sign is the foreground of an image of a fading sunset—but from the looks of it, Love Art isn’t closing anytime soon. The vibrant red from the sign contrasts with the gradient teal and orange colors of the dimming sky; its pulsating pink and blue neon tubes are a man-made lightsource incomparable to even the sinking sun. The association of neon signs with advertising, and cheap or tawdry places, resonates with the often cliché or kitsch aspect of sunsets. Perhaps Thalassoudis is knowingly setting us up for a joke, poking at our notions of authenticity. Thalassoudis’s Not Knowing (2013) takes a different tack. Rather than having a large, manufactured sign occupy most of the painting, the painter has instead devoted nearly all of the compositional space to the sunset, leaving a small strip of land at the bottom for artificial lights. In this manner, it is almost as if the sky is swallowing the land—the city lights inconsequential to the intense pinks, blues, yellows, and deep reds of the closing day.

Haniya Rae

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