Saturday, April 28, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
American Paedophile in the Bangkok Night
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
The Bangkok Noir Artist in the Bangkok Night
Monday, April 23, 2012
Glenn Beck in the Bangkok Night
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Thailand Influential Person Number Three
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Bangkok Noir Author John Burdett
Russian Adonis at Pattaya Beach
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Gay Hi-So Guy in Bangkok Night
Friday, April 13, 2012
Navigating the Bangkok Noir Review by Brian S.
(...courtesy of Pattaya Trader Magazine...)
Navigating the Bangkok Noir
Navigating the Bangkok Noir takes the reader inside the minds of the bargirls and guides them on a whirlwind tour through the notorious, seemly, and occasionally poignant nightlife scene of Bangkok without ever once stepping outside their front door.
When the editor of the Trader presented me with this particular book to review, it didn’t take long to realize that there was no obvious narrative to review. It was a picture book, or more specifically, an art book. How was I supposed to review a book with very little text? In fact, the only text inside the softcover ‘art book’ was made up of an introduction, followed by a number of reproductions of Chris Cole’s colourful artwork.
Fortunately, each one of the author’s expressionist, water color paintings was accompanied by an evocative caption that explained its inspiration and subject matter.
The images in the paintings Chris Coles has created are reminiscent of a modern day Toulouse-Lautrec. The cast of characters, displayed in gaudy colors depict the good, the bad, and the ugly. The gay, the straight, the bargirls, ladyboys, partiers, punters and pissheads are the ingredients that inspired the images, and give Bangkok’s noir its spiciness.
To me the narrative descriptions of the settings and characters which accompanied each painting is what makes this book shine. Each vignette of words enhance our understanding of the paintings. For example the description penned for a painting titled Washington Square Girl provides the reader with some insight as to how so many Thai women end up in a Bangkok bar:
“Sometimes she sits the whole day without any clients or drinks. She thinks about her life as a little girl, in a house on stilts, taking care of the chickens and water buffalo. Her mother worked from dawn till dusk, taught her kids to smile and sing, no matter how hard their life. At age twelve, she finished school and joined her father in the rice fields. Before she was eighteen, she had two babies. Her boyfriend ran away. The kids are teenagers now, living in the house on stilts. Someday they too will come to Bangkok.”
Another piece by the name of Patpong Girl explains the ability of a seasoned bargirl to size up any man:
“For two years she’s been dancing in a Patpong bar, about a hundred tourists a night, thirty-five thousand a year, seventy thousand in all, from Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Japan, Korea and the U.S. She looks at each one, knows them better than they know themselves, who they are, what they are looking for and whether they are worth her time.”
While another work called Lover’s Quarrel aptly illustrates the huge chasm that separates a youthful foreign bar patron from an equally young bargirl:
“He’s still young and naïve, learning how to live. She spent the last five years working in a Bangkok bar, at least three lifetimes compared to him. Both twenty-three, they’re not from different planets but separate solar systems, intersecting in the heat of a Bangkok night.”
Whatever one might think of the Bangkok nightlife scene, Chris Coles has successfully painted a vivid and sometimes lurid portrait, using both paint and words of what transpires inside of Bangkok’s bars and nightclubs, between the pages of Navigating the Bangkok Noir.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Mari Nicholson piece on Navigating the Bangkok Noir
Old Bangkok hands will no doubt be familiar with the work of artist Chris Coles whose painting are being slotted into the new genre called Bangkok Noir, a genre that covers both art and literature of which the crime novels of John Burdett are one example. Recently there has been more than a little buzz around this movement and now American artist and Bangkok resident Chris Coles has produced a book of paintings, an album of expressionist works, mostly watercolours on paper, called Navigating the Bangkok Noir.
Patpong and Soi Cowboy Night ScenesTo those familiar with the bar scenes in Thailand’s capital, the paintings will strike a familiar chord. Beauty and tragedy can be seen in the eyes and posture of the women whose stories can be read from the paintings; a vignette accompanies each portrait to help the viewer of the work or reader of the painting to understand the situation. The captions work to merge the visual and the printed word, the whole being a sociological essay on the red light district of Bangkok.
Crime Writers and the Artist Chris ColesAlthough the genre links crime writers like John Burdett and Christopher Moore to the artist, the thriller writers' work is somewhat different as plots and action seem to give life and choice to the people who inhabit these stories. One feels they have free-will of a sort whereas the people in Chris Coles' pictures seem to look out, glassy-eyed on to a world in which their horizons are limited. Nor are these the people the (often) drunken farang see through rose-tinted glasses, the mythical happy hookers; this is how it is, the bleaker, seedier side of Bangkok life.
The PicturesEach image is a single event, a standalone glimpse of the underbelly of Bangkok, not a full story. There are merely a few names to put to the faces, and you feel that Chris Coles has a deep well of sympathy for these night people. He does not even seem to dislike their clients much but looks on them dispassionately, although they are usually painted as physically gross.
Crime writer Christopher Moore has written an excellent foreword to the exhibition catalogue for Navigating the Bangkok Noir. But then, Navigating the Bangkok Noir is more than a catalogue: it is a pictorial history of life in Krung Thep, the City of Angels so called, a city where there are more sinners than saints.Navigating the Bangkok Noir by Chris Coles is published by Marshall Cavendish (2011) and is available from all good bookshops and from Amazon.com at approximately £12
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Voicu Mihnea Simandan on Navigating the Bangkok Noir
"Chris Coles & Navigating the Bangkok Noir" by Voicu Mihnea Simandan (from Bangkok Trader April 2012)
Noir is in fashion, and Bangkok noir is the latest “trend”. Either in literature or art, noir is everywhere and Chris Coles’ album of expressionist art, Navigating the Bangkok Noir (Marshall Cavandish, 2011), stands as proof. The album is comprised of one hundred close-ups of Bangkok nightlife. All of them are watercolors on paper and were created by the artist between 2004 and 2007.
Chris Coles is an artist and filmmaker who spends his creative time between two cities of angels: Los Angeles and Bangkok. For the people of Bangkok, Chris Coles’ work represents the faces of the good, the bad, and the unfortunate who negotiate on a daily basis a living in a Bangkok different than the one usually advertised in the Tourist Authority of Thailand brochures. It is the Bangkok of the red light districts. It is the Bangkok Noir.
The album couldn’t have had a better introduction than the one penned by Christopher G. Moore, another noir champion stationed in Bangkok. In The Bangkok Noir Movement, the essay that opens Coles’ album, Moore looks at what noir means for us, the residents of Bangkok, and places the artist’s paintings in its context: “modern pop art with contemporary pulp story telling”.
The vignettes Chris Coles wrote to accompany each of his noir paintings take us deeper into the darkness of Bangkok’s nightlife. The protagonists of Chris’ paintings are people he met or observed in various “hot” locations, from clubs mostly frequented by old timers to the tourist-oriented ones on Soi Cowboy. A special focus among his “subjects” are the ladies of the night, most of them dancing in brief clothing at the pole or waiting for their first (or last) customer of the day.
Two very striking paintings are Washington Square Girl, the portrait of a working girl whose harsh life back home in the village just seems to jump out of the picture; and Wild and Crazy Guy, the epitomizing image of your run-of-the-mill tourist who back home leads a safe and socially acceptable life, but once he lands in Bangkok, he is “ready to hunt large animals with a club and drag women back to his cave”.
With the recent publication of Bangkok Noir, a collection of dark short stories edited by Christopher G. Moore, plus Navigating the Bangkok Noir, which is already available in major bookstores throughout Thailand, the noir movement has taken a strong foothold in the Land of Smiles, where according to some, everything is wonderful and people are always smiling. Well, thanks to Chris Coles’ acute eye and artistic talent, we now know for sure that behind all the glitter and flashy lights, there’s a human drama that, on most occasions, we like to ignore or even forget it exists.
Laurence Goldstein, the former editor of Michigan Quarterly Review, is of the opinion that, “Many, most of the artworks in Navigating the Bangkok Noir are compelling by any definition, with those deep watercolors that sink into the mind’s eye like blue and red pools. I appreciate the coherence or focus of the book, so that each portrait, even of the dogs, intensifies the rest of the paintings. The captions construct an evolving sociological report on the whole area of Patpong and nearby regions. I love books that merge the verbal and visual as closely as this one does. The paintings exchew the usual standards of “beauty” and reveal the undergarment of psychological life in each of the subjects”.
Navigating the Bangkok Noir is also selling in Europe, North America, Australia, and around the other major cities in Asia. While Navigating the Bangkok Noir is an art book and not a “bestseller”, it will never be dated and will have quite a long shelf life, maybe somewhere around fifty years. It is also now in some libraries of American major universities, art museums and art schools and is being used in academic courses at such universities as the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the University of Hong Kong, and the Australia National University.
Not so long ago, the book was launched during a show at Bed Supperclub in downtown Bangkok, with the poster title of “Portraits from the Bangkok Night”. Among the guests attending the opening night were the U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney; the ex-Foreign Minister of Thailand, Kanthi Suphanmongkhon; the head of Bangkok’s IKEA; and Robert Lacey, the Director of RBS Investment Bangkok in Thailand. Also, Chris was honored with the presence of Bangkok’s leading noir author Christopher G. Moore; Kevin Hewison, a prominent academic on Southeast Asia; the founder of Prachatai, Chiranuch Premchaiporn; the Thai Intelligent News blogger, Terrance Chulavachana; Thailand’s leading classical music composer/conductor, Trisdee na Patalung; Elisabeth Romhild, a leading female artist living in Bangkok; and even Sean Boonpracong, the international spokesperson for the Red Shirt movement.
The show was originally scheduled for two weeks, but kept getting exteneded until it finally ended recently. In those two months, a total of 50,000 plus people viewed the paintings, probably a record for any Bangkok art show. There will be another Bed Supperclub show in the future, probably December 2012.
A second follow-up book containing more of Chris Coles’ Bangkok paintings is in the works and might come out as early as Spring 2013.
Both Kinokuniya stores in Siam Paragon and Emporium have Navigating the Bangkok Noir in their art sections at a shelf price of 600 baht. Emporium has it in the Thai studies section too. Asia Books Emporium tends to sell out of their copies and takes a while to re-stock, whereas the other Asia Books in Bangkok have it, usually in the art section. Otherwise, Chris’ book is always available on the internet from Kinokuniya, Asia Books and Amazon.
For a taste of the book, check out Chris Coles’ online gallery of expressionist art at www.chriscolesgallery.com You can also access http://bangkok-noir.blogspot.com for Chris’ most recent paintings plus little commentaries.
Voicu Mihnea Simandan is a Romanian writer who has been living in Thailand since 2002. He can be contacted at at email@example.com