Nov 29 2012
Historic Charoen Krung Road in Bangrak has long been home to fantastic Asian antique art galleries, but Belgian painter Chrisian Develter and partner Peter Smits contribute a fresh breath of artistic air at Warp54 Studio.
Not far from the old Portuguese embassy on Charoen Krung Soi 30, Warp54 occupies an airy teak wood warehouse constructed by the Japanese army during World War II, presumably to house munitions. The building escaped allied bombing and was used after the war to store rice until the Belgian duo came knocking two and a half years ago. Develter and Smits have been travelling Asia while popping in and out of Bangkok for the better part of 20 years.
The high-roofed warehouse is everything you’d imagine from an urban art studio — original unfinished wood floors, iron rafters, simple but carefully placed lighting and a blood red pool table beneath a glowing hot pink “WARP” sign at the building’s rear. Although Develter’s works would (and probably do) fit seamlessly into the most stylish Parisian or New Yorker digs, the vibe here is unpretentious. We admittedly don’t look like the type to have a piece or five wrapped up and sent back to the mansion, but after popping in unannounced on a Sunday afternoon we were greeted warmly.
While learning a bit of the studio’s background, we found it impossible to keep our eyes off the large paintings that seem to pop off the walls. Develter works mainly with oil and acrylics to create powerful portraits with an urban-Asian intensity. The pieces have a fresh, uncluttered feel with clean lines, vivid colours used selectively and a geometrical precision to rival what master graphic designers are capable of. If you forget this is in fact a studio and not a gallery per se, the artist’s tools scattered on a simple white table will remind you.
Develter’s latest avant garde series rides the crest of Asia’s complex and fluid cultural make-up. Faces of Asian women display piercing eyes that seem to be awaiting the answer to the most important question in the universe, or perfecting their Superman-style heat laser stare. Each face has been outfitted with a traditional tattoo design of the Chin ethnic minority group from northwestern Burma, which are etched onto the skin naturally by way of thorns, ashes, sap and chicken’s blood in keeping with Chin custom. These striking facial tattoos denote strength, beauty and tribal status in Chin communities, a few of which were visited by the artist earlier this year.
In Develter’s paintings, these symmetrical designs at first lend a futuristic or even computerized sense to each face, but the fact that each has been tattooed for centuries on Chin faces adds an unexpected element of time-defying cultural significance. To be highly subjective, the pieces place the smoky and timeless aura of a mountain-dwelling community campfire smack on a 21st century Asian mega-city dweller’s face. The result is both cool and evocative.
Although Warp54 is Develter’s personal work studio, the space sometimes hosts collaborative exhibitions and other events. This coming December 3, the studio will join with Bangkok fashion designers, Tube Gallery, for a fashion/art event that promises to be a colourful night out. This event will be spread across the alley to the P.Tendercool studio, itself worth a peek at any time for those interested in cutting edge furnishings that are more aptly described as works of art.
Although it’s okay to wander into Warp54 as we did, they generally operate on an appointment basis, and if you do show up without contacting the studio first there’s a good chance you’ll be met only by a locked door. It’s also necessary to advise in advance if you wish to attend the event on December 3. For more information on the art and events, visit Warp54 Studio’s website.
The studio is tucked down a tiny sub-soi off Charoen Krung Soi 30 (see map). Look for the gates and warehouses on the left when walking towards the river on Soi 30; if you reach the Portuguese embassy you’ve gone too far. From Saphan Taksin BTS station, take exit 3 and turn left onto Charoen Krung Road, and Soi 30 is two kilometres north, on the left. From Oriental express boat pier, walk straight away from the river until you reach Charoen Krung Road, take a left and Soi 30 will be a short walk away, on the left. After you’ve gotten your fill of art, you might head to nearby Viva & Aviz or Muslim Restaurant to fill your belly.
Soi Captain Bush, Charoen Krung Soi 30, Bangkok
T: (081) 867 5002 ; (084) 016 6550
Open: By appointment
BTS: Saphan Taksin, exit 3
Chao Phraya Express Boat: Oriental pier
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