Discovering your inner self

Acclaimed illustrator Phannapast Taychamaythakool returns with a new exhibition that explores the depths of the human mind

Phannapast 'Yoon' Taychamaythakool.

Back in 2019, internationally-acclaimed illustrator Phannapast "Yoon" Taychamaythakool recreated her own studio in her first solo exhibition titled "Only For You", which allowed art lovers to find inspiration and learn how she works.

To mark the beginning of the Year of the Ox, Yoon is back with "Venus In The Shell", an exhibition which allows visitors to delve into her mind with 50 colourful paintings and sculptures. Using different techniques, her work is a mix of Chinese and Western culture.

Yoon graduated in fashion design from Chulalongkorn University and served as the creative director for popular fashion brand Kloset before becoming an illustrator. Because of her unique drawings, she has worked with global luxury brands like Gucci and Bang & Olufsen.

On view at River City until Feb 28, her second solo exhibition is designed to resemble a theatre, and has five "chapters" in which Yoon will lead visitors to explore the mystic shell where the Roman goddess of love, desire, beauty and victory is hidden behind a curtain.

"In my first solo exhibition, I invited everyone to visit my studio so we could get to know each other. However, this time I'd like to bring everyone to the depths of my mind. I believe that people have sides that no one ever sees. This exhibition is like a session to talk to ourselves," Yoon said.

"The exhibition reflects what I'm thinking or how I feel. I've used my story as a key to show how I think through art, especially since our attitudes change as we grow up."

The rattan sculpture Flanky Lobster.

At the entrance, a pair of blue Dandy Lion sculptures welcome visitors to the world of mythology. Starting from the Venus In The Shell episode, visitors will have fun deciphering various symbols featured in the artwork. For example, a painting titled Curiouser depicts a cute girl listening to sounds and finding what's inside a gastropod shell.

"This exhibition is a reflection of the times, individuals, attitudes and thoughts I'm wondering. Visitors can spend time in the shell and find Venus from their own perspective. It's open for everyone to imagine and interpret. While some people might think a shell is like a shield, for me it's a hiding place," Yoon said.

"Venus is a goddess but has a human-form. She experienced sadness, anger, joy and jealousy just like us. Today, we're framed by tradition, culture and a way of thinking. I remember reading a book, which I loved, that stated that no matter whether we're a teacher, actor or philosopher, it is just a role we play for a few hours. The truth is that we spend most of our time living as a human. I often wonder why some things can lessen the value of something inside us."

As Yoon is sharing positive power, visitors can also search for the meaning of their names in the "Alphabet" series in which all 24 paintings depict warriors going through their English letter-inspired fighting moves.

A sculpture titled Dandy Lion.

"During lockdown, I kept to myself and had more time to listen to podcasts, read books or write in my diary. Every morning, I would create a painting for the Alphabet collection to talk to myself and get rid of distractions. I expressed my feelings through drawing," Yoon said.

"I thought that it might be fun for visitors to learn their own fighting moves through their names. By just looking at the paintings, I don't know if these movements are kundalini yoga or qigong fighting style."

Another highlight is Confession, a painting of a calm girl looking at her enemies and letting time penalise them for taking advantage of others. This represents anger that is hidden in the bottom of our hearts.

The adventure continues in the chapter Moonlight Dive. Like a spaceship, the towering Phoebus sculpture transports visitors into a ocean of monsters. On the walls, the astonishing Moonlight Dive mural illustrates bold warriors fighting against a troop of demons, which are generated from anger, fear, hatred, love and envy. "In collaboration with Cotto, skilful artisans spent 1,500 hours arranging these recycled glass tiles by hand. These paintings are about a battle between humans and monsters. We can learn our feelings and what we're thinking about to get to know that there are some monsters in our hearts, but we never see how they are," Yoon said.

The Moonlight Dive mural and Phoebus sculpture.

Back on land, the chapter Forbidden Flower leads visitors to an oasis, home to a cat and blooming lotus. They're symbolic to goodness, sexuality and what we don't want to mention.

"In the chapter Forbidden Flower, I question beliefs," Yoon said.

The next chapter is Mandragora In The Vase, covered with a Venus fly trap. Also known as mandrake to Harry Potter fans, this bizarre plant looks like a human and it will scream when being taken out of the soil.

"Society and external factors still shape our lives even though we know who we truly are when we grow up. If we're a magic tree but are out of place, we can't show our ability or reveal who we are. Like a mandrake, it can't bloom when being blanketed with a Venus fly trap," Yoon said.

The last chapter is The Wanderer. With lenticular printing techniques, visitors can look into a striking collection of three-dimensional paintings of beautiful girls and find Chinese mythical creatures hiding inside them. On display are The Lady And The Qirin, The Lady And The Pixiu, and The Lady And The Butterfly And The Empress.

"I've used lenticular printing techniques to reflect that there's something hiding inside the girls. Like us, we're concealing some personalities or feelings inside," Yoon said.

Nearby is an oversized rattan sculpture of the Flanky Lobster representing integrity while a painting of goldfish called The Wanderers leads the way to nirvana. Also on view is I'll Be Free, a portrait of Yoon and a goldfish.

The collection of three-dimensional paintings use lenticular printing techniques.

"It is said that a goldfish is forgetful and this is good because people think that leaving everything behind is the way to enlightenment, however, I don't think so. I will only understand what can happen when I remember the cause and effects. So, if we forget everything, how can we reach our goal?" Yoon said.

"At the age of 33, I need to learn about myself again. There's no one to guide us on what we should do, like when we were a student."

Yoon has also worked with DuckUnit to produce Best Friend Forever. Walking around the room, they're mechanical spoonbill-like sculptures, symbolising the past, present and future.

"Venus In The Shell" is on view at RCB Galleria of River City until Feb 28. Admission is free. Find out more at Phannapast.com or rivercitybangkok.com.