A Wild Ride

A spirit with six arms, numerous extra heads, and a Thai headdress comprised of various toys holds a limp child in her lap, their heart in one of her numerous hands connected to a charger. This is a characteristic piece of Songmuang Chuaynukoon, a Thai illustrator fond of drawing dense, energetic pieces crammed with childhood recollections, deeply personal expressions, and traditional and religious references.

Chuaynukoonโ€”who’s better known online as MeetMrTwoโ€”drew the piece when he was having a severe case of artist’s block, struggling to create anything he felt was worthwhile. It’s hinted at with the leaking pens and variety of medicinal remedies littered about. To overcome this helplessness, he poured those feelings into his work and created something overflowing with meaning and style.

Chuaynukoon wasn’t able to immediately break through his feelings of burnout, and this was actually his second attempt at beating it. Beforehand, he had drawn something of a prequel set in a video arcade with a girl sitting at a console that reads “Game Over?” She’s dressed in a ceremonial Chinese apron as a maneki-neko waving cat and grim reaper loom over her. Fish kites flutter in the air and a tongue-in-cheek sign reads: “Life (is never) Fair.”

The toy and game references have been a feature of Chuaynukoon’s work ever since he gave up a career as a graphic designer and discovered his current style as an artist. While his work has always had a darker edge to it and referenced more serious matters like the democracy protests, he previously focused mainly on the joys of childhood. These days, he makes it a point to infuse everything with a deeper meaning.

Despite this more mature approach to subject matter, Chuaynukoon’s work clearly never forgets to touch base with his inner child, which is a life philosophy in its own right. One piece zeroes in on the idea, featuring a fairy godmother as his own personal spirit of youth. She plays the cat’s cradle, enjoys stamp collecting and model trains, and the typical toys, snacks, and video games that proliferate the rest of his work are scattered everywhere.

Even this piece highlighting his childhood has deeper references, and her costume is inspired by the traditional attire of the Thibeth and Pwo Karen, indigenous peoples from the western and northern parts of Thailand and eastern Burma respectively. Inspirations like these from antique traditional costumes come naturally to Chuaynukoon and they can be found hidden within or acting as the focus of many of his illustrations.

If Chuaynukoon’s work was meaningless and full of whatever random stuff came to his mind, it would still be fun. But these substantive references and ideas make his work more satisfying and engaging. It’s so dense that exploring all the little pieces tucked away in the jumble of objects becomes a rewarding experience once a viewer discovers them. And there are plenty. Happy hunting.