In a mad jumble of bright characters and colorful spiritual references, Thai-Chinese illustrator Phannapast Taychamaythakool pours her subconscious onto paper with Copic markers. In a youthful and energetic style, she crams her artwork with dense visual messages, touching on everything from Christianity and Buddhism, to cults and astrology, to Greek mythology and Egyptian gods. Chimeras play with cherubic angels, messengers of god and the underworld whisper into the ears of heroes and kings, and Earth and space spin in endless spirals.
Taychamaythakool pays respects to many religions in her artwork, just like she has through much of her life. She attends both both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist temples and pays respect to both gods and monks. She studied at a Christian School for twelve years where she paid respect to the Virgin Mary before class everyday. In her home, a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha sits beside two separate Buddha statues. “I started drawing in this style several years ago when I started to pay more attention to who I am,” she says. “I’m speaking with myself, trying to understand myself.” But she refuses to limit herself to what she was exposed to as a kid, and seeks out deeper meaning through new experiences and lessons.
She says the various religions and spiritualities in her work are an attempt to connect the dots of human existence. From ancient religions, to modern ones, and cults all along the way. As far as Taychamaythakool sees it, all are an attempt to find self-awareness, peace, and access to God. She also practices a form of active imagination where she taps into her subconscious through meditation and then visualizes it through drawing.
Taychamaythakool says ancient civilizations and beliefs like the Egyptians and astrology tap into primal human needs and speak to the way we gain influence in today’s society: “In ancient times, if you were a person who possessed knowledge of astrology and told stories as if they were messages from God or luck, you’d become like a wizard of that era. It’s not so different today. People still use storytelling to their advantage.”
That ability to harness human attention is not always for the sake of good. She points to the one-sided nature of social media bubbles and algorithmic bias as problems we face today. She illustrates it in some of her art as well. In one drawing, Atlas’s passion led to the pregnancy of Mother Earth. “It’s the representation of curiosity and confusion around birth,” she explains. “We can never know who we really are or if we believe something that someone simply made up.” In her drawing, the desire for knowledge is portrayed by the Unconscious Mind who lifts Atlas’s loincloth to inspect what’s beneath. But the drawing is also full of chaos and confusion, with lies being whispered into Earth’s ear and blinds being pulled over viewers’ line of sight.
The cyclical nature of the universe and human experience are central to her art. Her style resembles a children’s’ book, which is partially about returning to our origins but also a representation of her personality and the feeling that she will always remain a kid in the face of infinity. The sun constantly dies and is reborn. Persephone is the god of rebirth but is repeatedly sent to the underworld. We are all born and we all return to the earth and the skies. So why stick to one time and place when there are endless universes?