Saturday, January 16, 2016

"The Depraved Joy of Chris Coles and the Bangkok Noir".........

By Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
Staff Reporter KhaoSod English
"Closing Time Nana Plaza"
BANGKOK — Lurid is the first word that comes to mind when absorbing the portraits and nightscapes of painter Chris Coles.
Not just for the vivid and feverish colors, but the late-night scenes of barflys, sex workers and the “informal economy.” In recent years Coles has painted prolifically and built a following online and off.
On Thursday, a mostly Expat crowd gathered at Bangkok’s Brainwake Cafe and Gallery on Soi Sukhumvit 33 for the American painter’s exhibition "Flowers, One Butterfly and the Bangkok Night", many writers and journalists among them as well as John Gartland who read several of his poems from the “Bangkok, Heart of Noir" book which featured some of Coles’ paintings.
Where the subject matter could come off as creepy, Coles paints with a gleeful honesty that avoids romanticism. The patina of white male desperation offsets the Orientalism at play in a body of work preoccupied with foreign men and Asian sex workers. Many figures' grins are indistinguishable from grimaces. They're all mad here, swerving between anguish and ecstasy.
There is anachronism in its focus, given the Bangkok of 2016, as it plays into those arguably tired stereotypes of Thailand and Southeast Asia.
But it’s the darker aspects of it all that is alluring to Coles, who doesn’t seem the type to be thrilled by sexploitation, more than he is enamored of the darker recesses of the human heart.
“They get delivered like a pizza,” Coles blurted out somewhat grimly during a discussion Thursday of sexually trafficked women he’s met the region.
I sent some questions to him. Here’s how he replied:
KE: The "Bangkok Noir," as you describe your work, often involves the purveyors or patrons of the flesh trade. A lot of farang with eyes somewhere between lust and lost. What draws you to that?
CC: Nightlife/sex business has often been used by artists. Paris around 1900, all the famous artists painted nightlife, nightlife workers. Same with Berlin 1920s, 1930s. … I think because there's so much color, so much exaggerated behavior, so many characters suffering. Humanity revealed.

KE: What do you see in a subject that makes you want to paint them?
CC: I like looking at all kinds of art and design, but my favorite art by far is German Expressionist art and the French Fauvists who came before them. I love the wild use of color, the distortion, and that the German Expressionists had a social context in their paintings, not just abstract, not just "decoration." Berlin 1920s and 1930s [saw a] rise of Fascism, authoritarian rule, social disintegration, alienation and dysfunction, like a volcano erupting.
That's what drew me into painting the Bangkok Night such wild colors, lighting, neon, so many different people, characters, larger than life, exaggerated, from all over the world [and] behaving badly in all sorts of ways.

KE: Are your subjects as deranged as they often appear, or do you take some license? Like, is there that much depravity out there, or do you turn up the volume?
CC: I don't want to make a "copy" of "reality" in a "realistic style.” Realism is boring. …I want to look past the surface into the dark deep interior where all the forbidden and ugly human stuff's going on.
The human animal is so bad, not well-intentioned, not "nice" at all. Humans kill, murder, maim, torture, rape millions of other humans,traffic other humans,buy and sell other humans, brutally exploit other humans. In my Bangkok Night paintings, I try to capture the true nature of humanity, not the "pretend," "nice" side of the human animal.

KE: What is new in "Flowers, One Butterfly And The Bangkok Night"?
CC: Oh, I was just thinking there's something in common between the Night Business and flowers and butterflies. The girls working in the night are like pretty flowers, pretty colors, nice shapes, pretty costumes, nice smell, makeup and hair. All are to attract the human male, who's like a butterfly flying around looking for pretty flowers. So I thought combining flowers, butterflies and Bangkok Night paintings would be kind of interesting, fun and illuminating.

“Blue Butterfly in the Bangkok Night”

KE: Which came first, spending a lot of time in bars or finding subjects to paint?
CC: First came a lot of pencil/graphite portraits of people's faces. I was fascinated by the genetic diversity of Bangkok and Southeast Asia. So many interesting faces.
When I came to Thailand the first time, I was doing a big Hollywood movie. … Naturally, people would go out at night: bars, night clubs, restaurants. Waves of neon, lighting, faces from all over the world, pretty girls, ladyboys, rent-boys, the smell of all sorts of food, the new pop music of Thailand and Asia just washed over me. I'd never been in Asia at all before. I said to myself, “Hey, something's going on here. Things are changing at the speed of light. A volcano is erupting. This is a special moment in Southeast Asia.”

KE: That side of Bangkok seems to be rapidly disappearing, as a new generation of migrants and residents replaces it with Quinoa salad joints, artisanal cafes serving single-sourced brunches and fitness centers. How do you feel about that?
CC: There are many layers and aspects to modern Bangkok. And as you point out, increasing prosperity. … But the Thonglor/Ekkamai side of modern Bangkok is only one slice, there are many other slices as well, from very high billionaire level to very bottom-end, dark, horrible level.

‘Midnight Patpong’'

KE: How long have you been in SEA? Do you still split your time between Cambodia and Thailand? How would you say the city/night cultures have evolved relative to each other?
CC: I'm based in Bangkok. Upper Sukhumvit. One of the nicest urban big city districts in the whole world, but I go around a lot. … [A]nd yes, every city, country, culture has its own style of nightlife which reflects many of the unique aspects. … For instance, nightlife in 20 million-person Jakarta is radically different from nightlife in Bangkok. Phnom Penh too. Same with Singapore, Saigon, Shanghai, Beijing, or New York, London, Paris. Nightlife reveals so much. It's where the secrets float to the surface.

KE: What's next?
CC: I'm off to Saigon in a few weeks. Saigon's changing at the speed of light. Vietnam's changing at the speed of light, very different from Bangkok. So far I haven't figured out what to paint or how to paint it, but I'm working on it. I need to spend more time there.
Also, more paintings away from the nightlife business. More flowers, butterflies, maybe even fish! Here's one I did called "Male Fish Swimming Around Ratchada Fishbowl Looking for a Female Fish." Kind of a playful joke on Ratchada’s giant massage palaces, and Thai guys always swimming around there looking for females.

‘Male Fish Swimming Around Ratchada Fishbowl Looking for a Female Fish’

Coles work is available from his online gallery. Singapore's Marshall Cavendish has also published “Navigating the Bangkok Noir,” a book featuring more than 100 of Coles' paintings of the lost hearts and souls of the Bangkok Night.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Flowers in the Bangkok Night" by Paul Dorsey in The Nation 11 January 2015..............

"Sunflowers" - Chris Coles
by Paul Dorsey (from The Nation 11 January 2015)

Noir painter Chris Coles opens a show this week featuring, of all things, blossoms from his mum’s garden

Chris Coles, the American expressionist painter who's spent so many years in Thailand that every evening stroll becomes a neon nightmare, has suddenly gone all flowery.

Faced with the predicament of having no paintings that his mother back in Maine would be proud to show her friends - his usual subjects are go-go dancers and their lusty patrons - Coles did the rounds of the garden.

And now six floral portraits are among the 21 works going on view in the exhibition "Flowers, One Butterfly and the Bangkok Night", opening on Thursday at the Brainwake Cafe and Gallery on Sukhumvit Soi 33.

Apart from the buds and the butterfly (of which more in a moment), the pieces in the show are more typical of Coles' output - snapshots from the garish nightlife of Bangkok and Pattaya (and Phnom Penh, recently added to the itinerary) and of the denizens that crowd into it.

This is no "nightmare" for him, of course, but rather a tantalising and endlessly compelling tableau in need of recording. There are drunks and ladyboys and drunken ladyboys, shrieking signage and hi-so hangers-out.

"Many of my expressionist-style noir paintings are drawn from the context of the Bangkok night, a vast, multi-layered entertainment spectacle that involves all manner of people from Southeast Asia, Asia and the entire world," Coles says in a promotion for the exhibition.

And amid this spectacle he has witnessed flowers grow, flourish and wither.

"While my 'Bangkok Night' paintings are drawn from and inspired by the people, visuals and ambience of the actual Bangkok night, they also present a metaphorical vision of a noir, globalised, modern world where people of every background and status mix and mingle in all sorts of ways, alienated, predatory and calculating, clinging to good intentions as well as bad, with intimacy and feelings both real and imagined."

There are, he says, "all sorts of consequences and outcomes, both intended and unintended".

"But in the metaphorical, more generalised sense, Bangkok's many thousands of night workers can also be seen as colourful, sometimes beautiful, often sweetly fragrant flowers which beckon to the many colourful butterflies and hungry bees floating by to pause, say hello and visit.

"Tragically, the lifespan of these thousands of flowers is often very short, an all-too-rapid but inevitable transition between birth, blooming, replication, decay and death."

The flowers, as Coles points out, invariably draw the metaphorical butterflies and bees, attracted by their radiance and scent and hungry for their pollen, so to speak. These visitors "are in a rush themselves to mate and replicate before their own brief moment of life in this world comes to an end".

The metaphor naturally applies perfectly well also to Bangkok's "tens of thousands of sex workers and their hundreds of thousands of customers", he says. In fact one suspects that it's this particular end of the biosphere that Coles had in mind all along.

The artist sheds none of his bold composition and heavy blocks of pigment in rendering what might ostensibly be "delicate" flora. A botanist might be hard-tasked to identify the individual species, but there's no denying the impact of these canvases.

They're not going to turn anyone into a naturalist, but they are memorable, and they do sit well alongside "Beer Bar Asoke" and "Midnight Patpong".


- "Flowers, One Butterfly and the Bangkok Night" opens at 7pm on Thursday at the the Brainwake Cafe and Gallery, 27/1 Sukhumvit Soi 33, near Peppina's restaurant .

- The paintings will be taken from the wall as they're sold, so arrive early to see them all.

- British "noir poet" John Gartland will give a reading from his book "Bangkok: Heart of Noir", which features illustrations by Chris Coles.

- For more details, check (02) 005 0026.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bangkok Post/Alan Parkhouse on Chris Coles "Flowers, One Butterfly and the Bangkok Night" show opening Jan 14th in Bangkok....

"Hollwood Agogo Nana Plaza" - Chris Coles

American expressionist painter Chris Coles is better known in Thailand and Cambodia for his neon-like work featuring bar girls and their customers, but now he's gone green.

Well, sort of. Coles' latest exhibition, which opens tonight at the Brainwake Cafe and Gallery on Sukhumvit 33, features six paintings of flowers and a butterfly. The title of the exhibition reflects Coles' slight change of direction -- "Flowers, One Butterfly And The Bangkok Night" -- but the artist's many fans need not worry as there are also 16 paintings of the Bangkok, Pattaya and Phnom Penh bar scenes.
The long-time resident of Bangkok has a "For Sale" sign on every item on display at the exhibition, so there is a strong chance some of the works will be gone not long after the show opens at 7pm.
British poet John Gartland will also be reading some of his work at the show, mostly from his contribution to the book Bangkok Heart Of Noir, which also featured some of Coles' paintings.
Coles, a former filmmaker, has been capturing the seedier side of Bangkok on canvas for many years and his work can be found in some of the establishments he's painted.
But recently he switched subjects and did something different, something his mother back in Maine can show her friends -- flowers and a butterfly.
"I did do this latest work with my mother in mind, although I was aware that many of the German expressionists had applied the style/genre to flowers, especially my Expressionist hero and mentor, Emil Nolde," Coles told the Bangkok Post.
Nolde was a German/Danish painter and one of the first expressionists of the 20th century.
"Many of my expressionist-style noir paintings are drawn from the context of the Bangkok night, a vast, multilayered entertainment spectacle that involves all manner of people from Southeast Asia, Asia and the entire world," says Coles.
The majority of Coles' paintings depict a side of life in Southeast Asia that is not promoted in the tourist brochures, but involves a lot of people, and money. And over the years Coles' bright, neon-like paintings of bars, the girls who work in them and the customers and characters who frequent them have steadily grown in popularity. A lot of people from different walks of life have become fans of his work.
"Chris Coles shows the other side of 'Thainess', the one that's not so rosy and pretty as the government would like to portray but certainly reflective of the reality…but he also shows that what appears at first glance to be ugly and dark can also be beautiful," said Bangkok Post columnist and TV and radio show host Suranand Vejjajiva.
"Chris Coles' beat is the expat neon triangle, Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and Patpong, where the wildlife gathers at the waterholes in the cool of the night," wrote Paul Dorsey, author of the Dali House blog.

The "Flowers, One Butterfly And The Bangkok Night" exhibition starts at 7pm tonight at the Brainwake Cafe and Gallery on Sukhumvit 33.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 09, 2016

"Paint the Neon Night: Seeing in the Dark" - Bangkok Eyes Piece on Chris Coles Recent Bangkok Show and Paintings........

Ten years ago this month, Midnight Hour opened with "Chris Coles' Noir Persepective", a piece on up-and-coming expressionist painter Coles.  Our article was motivated by the sudden and growing interest in Coles' paintings immediately following his successful showing at Liam's Gallery in Pattaya. Last month we revisited this ongoing success story - Chris Coles, his exhibits and his paintings.
One corner of Chris Coles' showing at Brainwake Cafe Gallery in January
By coincidence, while we were in the drafting stages of an 'update' story on Chris Coles, we received an invitation from him to attend his 'opening' at the Brainwake Cafe Gallery at the back of Soi 33 Sukhumvit.  Made to order - we would definitely be in attendance.
Candid shot of Chris Coles at the Brainwake showing.
The turnout for Chris Coles' Brainwake exhibition was somewhat greater than anticipated; a number of reporters representing large and small publications, 'local' expat writers and a 'poet' or two, in addition to several members of the expat population that had purchasead a 'Chris Coles' in the past. Last, but not least, were the expats and local customers on the Brainwake who were drawn to the showing like moths-to-the-flame by their own curiosity.

A 'Chris Coles" painting we at Bangkok Eyes are quite fond of. In fact, we were so 'fond-of' it, we purchased it and placed it front and center in our News Room. We never knew the name this painting. So we call it 'Predator'.

Over the last ten years, the demand for Chris Coles' paintings has been on the increase.  A number  of local restaurants and other Nitespots have a 'Chris Coles' hanging somewhere in a prominent position (Check Inn 99 and Baccara Bar Soi Cowboy, for example).  Many in Thailand's expat community also have a Coles' painting up at home, and will note conversationally, "Oh, yes, I already have a 'Chris Coles'.
Another photo from the Coles' exhibition at Brainwake.
While Chris pursues other themes from time to time, it is his Nightscene Epxressionist canvases which capture both the viewer's imagination and the reality on the ground.  Often a single Chris Cole' canvas will capture the neon/black-light/chrome-pole frosting on the cake - and the darker grunge of the cake itself. Chris Coles...."the painter who sees in the dark". Chris' works are original, unique and have carved a permanent niche in Bangkok's Nightlife Scene.
The Check Inn 99 has three 'Chris Coles' paintings hanging within. This one, 'Crazy Hour', partially obscured by a customer, is located at the end of the bar.

Not that Chris Coles' paintings have taken off like Bligh Dolls or Luk Thep Dolls or Krispy Kreme donuts - Chris will just have to wait for the 'intangible', that unknowable element that causes something to 'go viral'.  Those of us who know Chris have told him in jest that he would have to fake his own demise before his paintings would be sought by the rich-and-famous, the renowned galleries, the famous auction houses.....

A rendition of a young lady many imagine they once knew.....

An out-take from the Bangkok Post heralding the Chris Coles outing at Brainwake...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, January 04, 2016

Bangkok Opening Chris Coles "Flowers, One Butterfly and the Bangkok Night" Show...7pm Thursday January 14th at Brainwake Cafe & Gallery, bottom of Sukhumvit Soi 33 near Peppina's..........

Bangkok Opening of Chris Coles' "Flowers, One Butterfly & the Bangkok Night" Art Show.....featuring Bangkok Noir Poet John Gartland reading from the book, "Bangkok, Heart of Noir" he and Chris Coles recently published...7pm Thursday January 14th at Brainwake Cafe & Gallery, bottom of Sukhumvit Soi 33 near Peppina's......

Thaniya Plaza Bangkok Night.............

"Thaniya Plaza Bangkok Night" - Chris Coles

Labels: , ,

Turquoise Ladyboy on Soi Bin Laden in the Bangkok Night..........

"Turquoise Ladyboy on Soi Bin Laden in the Bangkok Night" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , , ,

Hollywood Agogo in the Bangkok Night............

"Hollywood Agogo in the Bangkok Night" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , ,

Mountain Flowers..........

"Mountain Flowers" - Chris Coles


Bangkok Boys Town............

"Bangkok Boys Town" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , , ,

Slow Afternoon Lone Star Saloon Washington Square Bangkok..............

"Slow Afternoon Lone Star Saloon Washington Square Bangkok" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , ,

Portrait of the Bangkok Noir Artist in the Bangkok Night..............

"Portrait of the Bangkok Noir Artist in the Bangkok Night" - Chris Coles

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 01, 2016

Portrait of Bangkok Noir Political Cartoonist and Artist Stephane Peray..........

"Portrait of Bangkok Noir Cartoonist Stephane Peray" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , , ,

Four Expressionist Flowers..........

"Four Expressionist Flowers" - Chris Coles

Labels: , ,

The Iron Club - Exclusive Wild Girls....................

"The Iron Club - Exclusive Wild Girls" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , , ,

Portrait of Bangkok Author Joe Cummings...."Lonely Planet Thailand".....

"Portrait of Bangkok Noir Author Joe Cumings" - Chris Coles

Labels: , , ,

Artist Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory