Gut Punch

When it comes to expression through art, the medium is less important than the outcome. Using whatever tools work best to convey a particular mood or idea can be more effective than mastering a type of brush or piece of software. This is the approach that Thai multimedia artist Tanatchai Mukem takes when he’s creating. Whether it’s photography, digital art, collage, or design, it’s all in his tool kit.

Mukem’s work is dark and aggressive, with stark color schemes, fiery effects, rough textures, and deep shadows outlining his visual style. Glowing eyes and hidden faces are regular, casting a sense of mystery and anonymity across his work that’s amplified by rugged noise and streaks of distortion. Even his concert photography has a tendency to feel like a bad dream.

The main color in Mukem’s output is red, with blood and ember tones seared into black-and-white imagery. He says that his original inspiration for these color schemes was the rock bands that he adored, but that his fascination with them grew because of their effectiveness: “They convey intense emotions clearly and dramatically.”

Music was Mukem’s early love, and a lot of his work is geared towards supporting the noise, shoegaze, thrash metal, hardcore, and experimental scenes where you can often find him in the middle of a mosh pit, camera in hand. Some of the photos he takes are more straightforward concert photography, but many of them sit firmly within his personal style, revealing how it overlaps with the music he loves. By capturing those feelings in those settings, he hopes to inspire more people to join in.

Mukem’s approach to visual artโ€”using multiple and unexpected tools and techniquesโ€”is in line with much of the best fashion photography. For example, the flames in some of his work are real, and he sets fire to the original photos so he can take another photo of them as they burn and wilt into ash. His overlap with fashion aesthetics is no coincidence, as his main source of income is from doing graphic design for fashion labels.

The most important thing to Mukem, regardless of medium, is that he’s able to express himself. “I give the most importance to the emotion in my work,” he says. “Everything is relevant, because in the end, this is what I’ve experienced, regardless of what I’m using or creating.” Overall, it’s about releasing his own feelings, but his vision is growing beyond his personal needs. Now he’s starting to incorporate more ideas about youth culture, society, and politics. “I want to tell bigger stories with the same energy.”