A while ago, I began my tale of Christian Develter, the artist whose paintings rendered me breathless and a little shocked. Those gleaming, enigmatic faces, marked in strange patterns, writ by some sacred geometry aficionado, dwarfed and thrilled me with their blazing colors.
In the end, I romped through world after world of crazy experiences to find their creator,, which seems appropriate somehow, as I’d already travelled thousands of miles to Asia, in search of romance and creative adventure. The kind of stuff we all dream travel will bring.
I wasn’t disappointed: Develter‘s oeuvre occupied a forbidden zone, rich with tribal tales, secret sects kept from everyday society and strange rituals.
Peter took one look at me and said, “You HAVE to go to Myanmar!”DV
As soon as I entered their massive Warp Studios, Christian’s partner, Peter Smits, took one look at me and said, “You HAVE to go to Myanmar!” I was silently reeling from the sight of the paintings on every wall, lined up on tables, casually resting against furniture and colouring everything from books to ceramics.
It was a pulsating visual assault.
Whatever I expected when I left my cozy beach blanket at 8AM that morning, further south along the coast, to traverse the riot-filled streets of Bangkok to Christian’s studio, it was not this.
I was smitten and a little weak at the knees.DV
Despite the huge size of the artwork at the Wallpaper exhibit in Siam, finding myself surrounded by these monolithic, finely wrought, paintings was overwhelming. I’ve heard it said that the relation between an artist and an admirer, or even a patron, is like true love. Sounds about right. I was smitten and a little weak at the knees.
That Siren Song
I really do have a weakness for colors, as easily finding my fix in the glorious sunshiny, multi-hued streets of any Asian town, as a street market or mall just about anywhere, and these paintings were chromatic catnip.
With their precise arrangements and almost mathematically mapped out lines, the draftsmanship of the gigantic faces lining the walls was unsettling in a hieroglyphic, ancient artefact kind of way. They positively glowed.
When I saw these paintings, they made me question our traditional notions of beauty. A friend commented that the faces were a bit scary, unknown – perhaps it’s the large, relentless staring eyes. Or maybe the scarification; something we don’t see every day, specially in such fantastic patterns and on a beautiful, model-like woman… So where did the ideas come from? And what is beauty, anyway?
In Myanmar, there’s a forbidden tradition, upheld today by a small group of women belonging to the Chin Tribe, in the far reaches of Myanmar. They scarify themselves with a large thorn, in patterns from nature.
Peter showed me one of those thorns: it was longer than my hand and as thick as my finger. Although not a beauty treatment but rather a symbol of protection from abduction by other tribes, and a statement of power, it knocks our notions of the pain of, say, waxing, into a corner.
Together the adventurous duo told me stories of venturing to the Chin people’s region, which had its challenges, including eating unaccustomed food and witnessing practices frowned upon today. There are few of these strong, beautiful women left, and only one lady who is still able to play the traditional nose flute. Apparently this sparky lady is full of wit and life. Somehow, we’d expect nothing less!
Powerful Chin Matriarchs, including The Last Remaining Nose Flute Player In The World
He Captures The Castle
With the Chin Tribe’s blessing, Christian took these fascinating patterns and marking, carefully preserving the integrity of each stroke, and superimposed them onto the modern, young faces of Asian models.
The huge color baths, a speciality of his work, painted in the flat tones of pop art are now avidly collected and shown all over the world. Recently he’s been snapped up by venues such as Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel (where his other works, including small paintings and objets are also sold) and the Belmond Copacabana Hotel in Brazil. The legendary sophistication of these hotels speaks volumes.
Develter also teamed up with Phisit and Saxit from Tube Gallery to create a clothing line. I saw one of the dresses, a fluid silken wisp of a thing with gorgeous color and pattern, draped on a mannequin in a Siem Reap gallery in Cambodia. Stunning accessories, like the silk scarf emblazoned with his designs still eluded me: there was only one left. Ah, those elusive pleasures!
With collectors from all corners eagerly travelling to Thailand and Cambodia hoping to snag some of the Develter mystique, it seems Christian has both captured our artistic passion and paid a fitting homage to his beautiful Chin Tribe muses.
He’s also captured so many hearts in the process, especially mine.
Christian Develter in Bangkok Restaurant, The China House, at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Beautiful, colorful, aloof and strangely hypnotic, Christian Develter’s women stole my heart…
Editorial Picture: Dear Velvet
FIND: CHRISTIAN DEVELTER
Photography by Christian Develter and Benoit Laboup.