UberPrints is honored to collaborate with Sanithna Phansavanh, an Atlanta based fine artist, designer, art director and self-proclaimed t-shirt addict. Sanithna’s work explores classic subject matter like nature and anatomy, while exploring deeper themes surrounding life and the human condition. After spending an afternoon with Sanithna at his studio and on site at his Outerspace Project mural, “Cosmos”, Phansavanh revealed himself to be one with life, love and art.
Like much of his work, Sanithna’s collaboration t-shirt with the gARmenT project entitled “Karuna” is shrouded in symbolism. An interpretation of Sigmund Freud’s model of the psyche, Phansavanh has created a shirt design that is both beautiful and meaningful. Sanithna explains:
“To help explain some of our thoughts and behaviors, Sigmund Freud’s model of the psyche used the concepts of The Id, The Ego, and The Super-Ego. The Id is the primal impulse, The Ego is the realistic mediator, and The Super-Ego is the call for perfection. In this design, I’ve used them as touch points for my own personal symbology.
The Id is positioned to the left (often cited as the “sinister” side). The scorpion, the base evolution of Scorpio, represents the deep and dark current of passion, full of potency, urgency, and intensity, that pushes everything forward.
To the right is the Ego. The tooth and nails lockup is a prominent symbol in my work. The tooth represents hunger, the desire, and the nails represent skill and hard work. This is the focus.
At top is the Sanskrit word for “karuna,” which means “compassion.” I believe it is the most necessary and transformative emotion to hold, more important than love. This is The Super-Ego, the ideal that guides.”
Nature and the human form are repeating themes in your paintings and murals. Are these themes conceptual? Does your art have a message?
I’m very interested in the human condition, in who we are and what we do, and how that relates to creation, existence, and permanence. Nature has become a pretty important layer of that exploration, as plants and flowers are powerful symbols for the cycle of life. The general idea is that life is beautiful, precious, and magical, and should be revered and celebrated as much as possible.
Your use of vibrant color is striking. Do you have a favorite medium?
My first and truest love will always be graphite on paper. There’s something about the simplicity, directness, and intimacy of pencil on paper that makes me incredibly happy.
Who and what are your influences and where does your motivation come from?
My list of inspirational heroes is pretty long and includes people like Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, Pablo Neruda, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, KiKi Smith, Salvador Dalí, Andrew Wyeth, Pablo Picasso, and Gustav Klimt. I’m most influenced by music and books (the written word, when imbued with poetry and skill, never fails to inspire me) and the processes of the natural world (specifically cosmology and astrophysics). The motive tends to shift, but the underlying desire is to always just create. I want to always create.
Along with fine art, you also do art direction and graphic design. How do you balance personal and client work?
Both sides are interdependent and I try to do both as evenly as possible, almost to the point of tallying hours. If I work eight hours on client work, I know that I need to put in at least eight hours of studio time. Even if I’m not in the mood, I sit down and work. It’s so important for my health, mentally, emotionally, and physically, for me to not neglect either side. The ebb and flow often depends on timing, opportunity, and necessity, but, regardless of why the work is created, I always try to stay busy. Wasted time is the worst thing to me.
Is there a soundtrack to your work?
There is always a soundtrack. I have music in my ears from the moment that I wake up to the moment that I fall asleep. Listening to music is the easiest and most effective way to prime the engine. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot more instrumental work, like Zoe Keating, Ólafur Arnalds, and Ravi Shankar, because the flow state can be found easier. But, I grew up on soul, hip hop, and indie rock, and, depending on what I’m creating, I’ll choose the right tempo.
Your work can be found all over Atlanta, from city walls to event t-shirts. Do you consider yourself an “Atlanta artist” and how do you feel about the local art scene?
I consider myself an “Atlanta artist” and I wear that label with pride. The artists of Atlanta have put so much passion and effort into developing our city and that’s something that deserves recognition. We’ve toiled this land, planted the seeds, and tended the growth, all because we love what we do, right where we are. We’re not trying to be an NYC or an LA and that means that everything is uniquely ours, for good and for bad. I love my fellow Atlanta artists because they are supportive, humble, unpretentious, authentic, and talented. Like the Prophet Andre 3000 hath once pronounceth, “The South got something to say.”
What do you do when you’re not creating artwork?
When I’m not creating artwork, I’m content just existing. I enjoy that the most when I’m with my family, but being in the ocean or in the forest are great times for that, too.
Do you have a favorite t-shirt?
I actually have a problem collecting t-shirts. This is an impossible question to answer and you should be ashamed for asking me this.
Visit us on instagram @uberprints to enter to win one the Sanithna’s limited edition t-shirts. For more information about Sanithna Phansavanh’s art visit www.sanithna.com. To customize a personal shirt with your own original artwork visit the UberPrints studio.