Monday, May 27, 2013
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Nana Plaza Neon Bangkok Night
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Bangkok Soi Dog at Suzie Wong Agogo
NGO Guy at Hillary Bar Soi Nana
Farang Fashion Designer at Q Bar
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Bangkok Eyes piece on the Bangkok Noir Movement
Noir is simply "black" in French and is as old as the Modern French language. However "Noir" as applicable to an art genre, a school of Expressionism or, say, a "movement", goes back to exactly 1946 when French critic Nino Frank first coined the term "Film Noir". He used the term to describe certain Hollywood films of that era that, generally, were typified by stark cinematic production, a harsh realism -often with bleak "Gothic" backdrops- whose cynical, jaded characters were caught up in edgy, often sinister plots.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Farang at Lollipop Agogo Nana Plaza
Indian Guy at Nana Liquid Disco
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Mamasan in the Bangkok Night
Farang Backpacker Khao San Road
Labels: ATM, backpacker, Bali, banana pancakes, Bangkok night, DEET, farang, Goa, Guest Houses, Ho Chi Minh, India, internet cafe, khao san road, Luang Prabang, Nepal, sex tourist, Sexpat, Sihanoukville, Thailand, traveller
Pakistani Guy Soi 3 Sukhumvit in the Bangkok Night
Labels: Bangkok night, Egypt, Iran, Kazakstan, Kuwait, ladyboys, Moldova, Oman, Pakistan, Pakistani guy, Qatar, Russian hookers, Saudi, Sudan, Sukhumvit Soi 3, Thai prostitutes, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Uzbekistan
Young Italian Guy in the Bangkok Night
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Thai Lady in the Bangkok Night
Thailand Influential Person
German Art Dealer in the Bangkok Night
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Hi-So Thai Guy in the Bangkok Night
Thai-Chinese Girl at Route 66 Club RCA
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Jim Algie Reviews "Navigating the Bangkok Noir"
Chris Coles has brought out these true colours of the nocturnal capital in the series of paintings that make up Navigating the Bangkok Noir.
What some may see as a new (and equally virulent) strain of German expressionism - which the artist himself happily admits to - that speaks to the decadence of the pre-Nazi Weimar Republic and the Thai capital of today - these watercolor-on-paper images are also coloured by pop art references, which allows Coles plenty of leeway to satirize as he seduces.
In comic-loving Asia, some of these subjects become caricatures of themselves, while some of these images lampoon that very same cartoon culture ("Cartoon" being a popular Thai nickname for girls) and the kind of kitsch that gives Bangkok noir a comical air.
Almost stripped of their identities, the subjects of these paintings, the bar babes and the customers, the boozers and malcontents, blend together in a way that suggests dehumanization.
But the captions allow the painter to paint these subjects with a little more depth, arousing sympathy for the prostitutes and setting the scenes with vignettes about the customers who are anything but stereotypical lechers: "Timothy's been in Bangkok for ten years, the Director of Asia Marketing for a leading luxury goods company. He spends his days in a gleaming office tower, reviewing the last campaigns, checking demographics, chasing down manufacturers of counterfeit goods. He's built an Asian luxury goods empire and made a few million along the way. A regular at Pegasus, the Mamasan knows him well, as do many of the two hundred girls. He brings out-of-town clients there, as well as the guys from headquarters. The smiles, beauty, and style leave them dazzled, dizzy and grateful, an ultimate boys night out."
The wordsmithing side of Bangkok's night strife has been well documented, but Chris Coles is painting the town with different brushstrokes and shades of gaudiness in this book and his exhibitions.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
Young NGO Guy at WTF in the Bangkok Night
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Rainbow Agogo in the Bangkok Night
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Rent Boy in the BangkokNight
Monday, May 06, 2013
Freelancer Girl at Q Bar
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Arabian Nights Disco in the Grace Hotel
European Gentleman Cruising Khao San Road in the Bangkok Night
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Bangkok Noir Poet John Gartland
Baccara Bar Bangkok 3AM Friday Night
Friday, May 03, 2013
Farang Who Knows Too Much in the Bangkok Night
Thursday, May 02, 2013
Noir Journalist & Author in the Bangkok Night
Lower Sukhumvit After Midnite
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Off-beat Review of Navigating the Bangkok Noir by Biscotti
While surfing around the net recently I came across the paintings of an American born artist who has dedicated considerable time (and probably considerable dollars) to documenting the nightlife at Bangkok’s numerous Go-Go bars, strip clubs, pick up joints and hostess bars. And the documentations he produces are in the form of colourfully grotesque, expressionist paintings. His work is not to all tastes (I think they’re mostly hideous) but on his blog he writes short explanatory paragraphs to accompany each painting, and his writing is brilliant. Sometimes pithy, almost always poignant, his observations truly bring the paintings to life.
Anyone not familiar with Expressionism should be forewarned: the paintings are SUPPOSED to look ugly. Expressionism is an artistic style that grew out of the European experience immediately following the unbelievable slaughter of the First World War. The artist’s world is now viewed as a harsh, edgy, dangerous place, filled with bad intentions and alienation. The Expressionists often painted their vision with dark lines and clashing colors, rather than the soft images and harmonious tones (like the Impressionists who preceded them). Famous Expressionists include George Grosz, Oscar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, and Otto Dix. OK, now that the art lesson is over, time to look at some paintings.
The painting above is meant to portray the 1am blur of mild insanity that can be witnessed almost any evening at the Rainbow A-Go-Go bar in Bangkok’s ultra-sleazy Nana Plaza entertainment district. And truthfully, it captures the scene pretty well. “Too much beer, too much flesh and too many expats out of control” says the artist on his website.
This painting, no bigger than a postcard, depicts the mundane side of almost any bar on Bangkok’s garishly seedy Soi Cowboy. A mix of lust and languor, or, as the artist so amusingly writes on his blog: “Certain Soi Cowboy bars are hangouts for retired expats, old hands in Bangkok, where they go to say hello to their friends. The girls are just there, in the background, available or not – no one cares. Where’s so and so? I just got back from the States, it ain’t the same. When’s your next visa run? I was over in Saigon last week. You should go over and take a look. If they lived in Arizona or Florida, they would all be playing golf.”
The crude but compelling painting above is a great “capture the moment” slice of life in the night of pretty much any go-go dancer working in Bangkok’s Patpong red light district. And the angle is familiar to anyone who has sat in the front row watching these girls as they gyrate onstage in their high heels and skimpy bikinis (yes, guilty as charged). The artist on his blog imagines the numbers of tourists that she’s scene in her brief 2-years working as a dancer. “… 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 USA.”
Although I haven’t seen any other painters depicting Bangkok’s “ladies of the night”, the tradition of artists using prostitutes as models has a long history. Toulouse-Lautrec, the famous French Post-Impressionist, purposely sought out prostitutes and cabaret performers as models, arguing that they provided him with the natural, unconstrained movement he preferred. I’m sure artist Chris Coles (whom I’ve never met) also finds the attitudes and body language of Bangkok’s good time girls to be a big part of his inspiration. But he also seeks to depict the “world” these girls inhabit.
The painting above, which is as hilarious as it is disturbing, has a great bit of poetry to go with it on the artist’s website. It describes perfectly the feeling one experiences after being in Bangkok too long – when the heat and the repetition begins to wear you down a bit: “A quiet night in April, Bangkok’s hottest month. Outside, even at midnight, it’s a hundred degrees and a hundred percent humidity. Inside the bar, the A/C is on full blast, the beer cold and everybody’s happy to go through the motions, thankful for the escape.”
As I spent time online finding out more about Chris Coles, I discovered that he has packaged his collection of paintings into a book, entitled Navigating the Bangkok Noir (available online and at a few select bookstores in Bangkok, Singapore, and, perhaps not surprisingly, France). I haven’t seen his book here, but I hope it includes the insightful words he uses on his website. His thoughts behind Washington Square Girl (above) are actually quite poetic and moving: “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 ‘til dusk, taught her kids to smile and sing, no matter how hard their life. At age 12, she finished school and joined her father in the rice fields. Before she was 18, she had two babies. Her boyfriend ran away. The kids are teenagers now, living in the house on stilts. Someday, they will come to Bangkok too.”
I was also surprised to find out that Coles, who divides his time between Bangkok and the USA (Los Angeles and Maine), has had exhibitions in New York, L.A., and even some prestigious galleries right here in Bangkok. He’s also had a pretty interesting life, working around the world in some very exotic locales. His paintings may not suit every taste, but art is where you find it, right? And if nothing else, his wry observations elevate the material to a universal level. Take for instance this blurb, which accompanies the painting above. It even touches on a bit of Buddhist philosophy: “Almost thirty, Lek’s body is still slender and supple. But she has seen too much, known too many men, danced too many nights. Her only desire is to go back to her hometown, take care of her ten year old son and live out the rest of this life in quiet, hoping the next cycle will be better.”