For Chris Coles ’69,
making the biggest flop in box-office history was a personal bonanza.
In 1995, the then-movie executive moved to Thailand to shoot Cutthroat Island,
starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine. The movie bombed, but Coles
stayed, finding a new artistic calling in Bangkok’s infamous nightlife.
The blinking neon signs—which he depicts in the painting Thaniya Plaza,
at right—and the throngs of sex tourists, call girls, and ladyboys all
remind Coles of the Parisian and Berlin nightlife of the 1920s. He
counts Emil Nolde and other fauve and expressionist painters of that
period among his inspirations. Once deemed decadent, their paintings
now are prized for their glimpses of the energy and loneliness of jazz
clubs and bars. Last year, Coles’s vibrant paintings were
collected in the book Navigating the Bangkok Noir. Newer work will be exhibited at Bed Supperclub in Bangkok in January and at Meta House in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in February.