Patpong Gets Culture: The Candle Light Studio

Last week, the good folks over at Patpong’s new art gallery—The Candle Light Studio—graciously allowed me to pop in and snap some pics of the current exhibition: Sex, Drugs & Headache Stencil, which runs until the 1st of May, when there will be an end-of-exhibit party complete with DJs, showgirls, guest artists, and other surprises. So if you’re free on that day, swing by and take in the festivities. It’s unknown whether Headache—aka Thailand’s Banksy—will be on hand, as he is (as he puts it) wanted by the police and military. But keep your eyes peeled.

In case you can’t get over there before this collection closes, here are some of the works as seen through Bangkok Seven’s lens, starting in the main room and looking clockwise:


As someone who endured the scourge of red ants while living in Krabi, these little guys represent two things to me: first, they remind me of lo-so life in Thailand, out in the countryside where ants are a fact of life. When a PYT (pretty young Thai) moves to the city, she’s equally plagued/annoyed by swarms of farang clawing at her flesh like red ants.

This one’s pretty straightforward. A woman’s barely-clad torso superimposed by the modern equivalent of self-esteem: social media likes and dislikes. Poignant.


On to the next wall. The dildo wallpaper motif says two things to me. First, it reminds one of the wooden and soap phalluses sold in the night market. Second, the three pictures on this wall are underscored with an air of male oppression. Now, why are they a candy blue color? That’s got me stumped.

In the first picture, she’s leaning on the description like a crutch. Is a Thai girl “dirty” from birth? No. It’s a moniker she takes on as a matter of course if she has no other means of support. Does a Thai girl become “dirty” by way of a red-light vocation? No. Miraculously, they tend to preserve their sweetness and genuine nature, untouched by the circumstance. Which is why a bargirl can potentially marry a farang, move back to Isan, and live happily ever after, and why “dirty” is a label any bar girl or gogo dancer can throw off and walk away from at any time.

“Rape Bible” is an intriguing work. To me, it represents a Thai’s attempt to grasp the mentality of their farang customer, who is bound by their Western ideals about morality, and who gets their vision of sex and sin from Judeo-Christian mores. In other words, this Thai girl is struggling to understand why her customer feels, in the act of sex, both satiated and guilty simultaneously.

The third is another straightforward illustration. She allows herself to be victimized for a monetary end, and for the one victimizing her—in this case the viewer can imagine taking that role—money is the justification for the act. Getting paid for sin and paying for sin in one picture.



A flower bouquet with weapons of violence. What does this have to do with Patpong? I think it’s a parallel of the mix of love and conflict that exists in the red-light.






A nude silhouette in heels, and the only illuminated body part is her brain. And she’s in a cage. In other words, “Just be quiet and look sexy, honey. Keep your opinions to yourself.” Or better yet, keep your opinions locked inside this identity we’ve made for you and trapped you in.







Two farang sailors kissing? To me, this represents the gay infiltration (gayfiltration, copyright BKK7) of the Pong, which is not necessarily a bad thing, and which will be covered at length in next week’s weekly. Next to them is a sexy but disaffected girl drinking the milk of common sense, which might symbolize the truth she knew all her life—that working in the red-light would be a bad idea—yet the oppressive command to TRUST hangs above her like the sword of Damocles. Who is commanding her to trust? Is it her friends? The mamasan? Her customers? I’m not sure, to be honest. This one’s got me a bit mystified.

I must confess, the pile of Barbies reminded me of my harem, though personally I’d never treat them like toys I’ve grown tired of. If this work were to represent my girls, they’d all be lovingly brushed, dressed, and placed in repose. Though I can see how bargirls could be regarded in this way—something to play with and then discard.



On to room 2…


“Headache” spelled out in cocaine, an upturned hand holding what is either a rolled-up bill or a piece of chalk. Is this the hand of an unconscious user? An OD victim?








I imagine what most people see is Christ’s last supper of liquor, hallucinogens, and narcotics. I see a commentary on the Renaissance and Western ideology. It’s not super focused on anything Pong-related, per se. Headache said his topic was “sex and drugs” in general. So in my view, this piece represents how modern society has replaced religion with nihilism and escapism, and shifted their dependency from faith to altered states. And as the last supper was Christ’s last meal before his death, so too is the drug binge on display on the table a last fix for any user. No one here gets out alive.


The wall covered with the names of various drugs reminds me of my childhood bedroom wallpaper, which depicted a series of World War 1 biplanes. Drug wallpaper could be the childhood wallpaper of the Millennial generation. The three pictures are related. The first one represents the current young generation’s lifelong relationship with drugs. Their grandparents were the hippy generation. Their parents took drugs between classes in high school. Today’s toddlers will grow up in a world where weed is legal.

17 women with the same artificial expression? They’re all on a different drug from the wallpaper, but the end result is the same. Uniformity through a communal high and/or dependency.

And speaking of, the final picture is Pablo Escobar’s severed head, with paint trickling down from his neck like blood. And his face is stained red, though it’s not blood-red. It’s almost clownish red, like something the Joker would don. Is Headache saying Pablo is a real-world version of a comic book villain? If so, there’s a cold reality: No real-world hero exists to defeat him.

In between Headache’s works is some street art courtesy of an uncredited artist. The two most prominent works are in the first room, on either side of the far doorway. The one on the left is a depiction of Vishnu with two arms folded, one giving the bird, another a peace sign, a VR headset on her head, and a halo of syringes. Make of that what you will. The one on the right is a giant vagina ringed in fur with cartoon legs in high heels and arms reminiscent of Minnie Mouse, a devil’s tail, a fox’s ears, and a feline eye peeking out from the center. This creature appears to be waving at the viewer while asking a question in Thai, “Teow, mai?’ Which for Thais can be a crude way of saying “Are you looking for something naughty?” On the wall behind is a 3rd work by artist Asine. It’s a floating sphere comprised of what look like human eyes and bird beaks, while casting a devilish shadow on the wall below it. As for an interpretation, I got nothin’.


The bartenders are themselves works of art, as you can see.


Candle Light Studio opens at 4 pm daily and closes at 11. Swing by to catch this exhibit before it’s gone, or better yet hit them up on the 1st to enjoy the closing party.


And before we part ways, here’s a quick Pong update (QPU). Radio City is set to open next month according to Patpong locals, though they’ve said that every month since last September. Luckily for the owner, he’s got Bada Bing to focus on, which counter to all announcements that it would close remains open and is currently going like gangbusters. A slew of fun, hot girls are in there at the moment, and it’s a raucously good time. Currently, the gogos are struggling to revamp their air conditioning, which can’t compete with Bangkok’s present heat wave. As of this week, the only one to step up is Glamour. Nice and icy in there. Four bars are up for sale: Patpong Café, Crystal Palace, Superstar, and Superstar beer bar as a package deal for 15 million baht. There’s some great history and lovely old décor in those bars. Pop in and get a look, in case they get remodeled after the sale. The latest gogo-related rumor is that The Strip–which closed last month–has been snapped up by a Japanese owner who plans to open…..(drum roll please)…..a gogo! It’s great news for mongers like me. In less-great news, a bunch of new gay bars have popped up and are peddling their wares in force. There are folks who think it spells the end for Patpong. I don’t agree—full article on that topic next week.

And that’s all she wrote for this Sunday. Check in on Friday for a frowback, and in the meantime may your beers be cold, your choices bold, and cheers to another week above ground in this paradise on Earth called Thailand.