Christian Develter’s art is so potent that this painting, briefly glimpsed, haunted me across two countries, three continents, and inspired me to brave political turmoil and rioting to meet its maker.
If this story were a movie, it would be a simple romantic tale. Girl meets Art, falls in love, Girl loses Art, but catches glimpses of it everywhere. Who is following whom? Will Girl ever find Art and, well… Save Her World?
Girl meets Art, falls in love, Girl loses Art..DV
Those Hypnotic Eyes
I was in Bangkok when I first saw it, trailing listlessly through the Emporia of Siam, luxuriating in the high-octane air conditioning, refugee from the traffic and heat. I drifted through an exhibit by Wallpaper Magazine, so far, so hipster, and then I came up against a giant tattooed face, pulsating with color and pattern.
It rendered me literally breathless, almost shocked. I tried walking past it, after a suitable interval, and ended up returning three times, even though the store was closing and the security guard gave me a stony glare.
Just a Sphinx-like Otherness I had to understand.DV
If you’ve ever seen (or seen a picture of) The Sphinx in Egypt, or The Mona Lisa in Paris, you’ll comprehend when I say there was something there I could neither fathom nor resist.. Some undefinable essence was in those eyes and that face, that transcended the color and strange markings written all over it. Like the Mona Lisa, there was no smile to speak of, no orientation as to age or provenance, just a Sphinx-like Otherness I had to understand.
I was hooked.
I Chase A Vapor Trail
A month later, I’d left Bangkok for Siem Reap, Cambodia, on the well-worn temple trail, taking my ancient history lessons in big gulps, popping monuments and carvings like candy. It was a true delight I’d recommend to anyone with a love of ruins and a good internal thermostat (it’s hot there). Definitely some kind of camera, too: it’s a wow. (I’ll bring out my snaps later).
After all that rock-climbing, haggling with tuk-tuk drivers and cycling round town in the dust, I was beat. We zoomed into the courtyard of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club for a lemonade, wandered into their gallery and saw yet another huge, beautiful, heavily marked face.
This time there was a silk dress painted with the same design too, even a scarf. I anxiously asked the price (rather nervous to hear the answer, it looked so precious) and was politely told none of the exhibited clothes were for sale. They had come from a fashion show in Bangkok.
And yes, in true mystery story style, yet another of his paintings beckoned seductively from a gallery in the city’s marketplace a few days later. I enquired, took a card, mostly because it had a painting emblazoned on the back and tried to forget. The scenario was so archetypal: apparently he was here just a while ago, this mysterious artist who paints such haunting beauty.
But he’d just left.
Incendiary Meeting In A City Swept By Passion
Of course, no romantic chase would be complete without the odd outburst, fireworks even, and this is no exception. Once back in Bangkok, the card slipped out of my notebook when I shook the temple dust off my bag and the dance was on again. This time though, the city was in ferment, so I skipped town to get some peace and see the sea. I could not forget, however, and finally the obvious solution hit me.
Why not just get in touch?
Finally the obvious solution hit me. Why not just get in touch?DV
The next day I found myself, in a scene from a movie, scampering through Bangkok, from one meeting to another, being put in and out of taxis, accompanied by rapid-fire Thai to nervous drivers, in an attempt to get me from place to place and avoid the riots, which even resulted in a bomb being let off at the train stop I was about to enter. In true movie style, it was actually intriguing and one of my most memorable days in Asia.
Finally encountering Christian Develter and his partner, Peter Smits, both from Belgium, was like the meeting of dear friends. They were charming and amusing hosts, fortunately, as walking into their aircraft hangar of a space, Warp Studio 54. I was left speechless. The sheer power of so much color to heighten and explode the senses was astounding.
Imagine your favourite music, played full volume, pounding through your chest and commanding you to drop everything and dance, or sit quietly and listen, whatever your taste. Or a scintillatingly beautiful ballet, with a twist maybe, like Black Swan.
I didn’t leave for quite some time. They plied me with tea, tales of travel and intrigue in exotic and unexplored places, told of meetings with mysterious tribes and.. stories for another day.
But first of all, just who is Christian Develter?
Christian trained as a fashion designer at Antwerp‘s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, alongside The Antwerp Six – (including Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten) – illustrious company indeed. His passion for form and sweeping color led him to turn exclusively to painting.
Luckily for us.
FIND: Christian Develter