Feature: Q&A w/ Artist Sanithna Phansavanh
Sanithna Phansavanh is an Atlanta based visual artist who is quietly making a mark on the City of Atlanta through his stunning paintings and street art.
We gained the opportunity to chat with artist Sanithna Phansavanh, who is currently featured in the High’s Sprawl! exhibition, about the vision behind his work and his experiences as a creative in Atlanta. Check the Q&A with Sanithna and Tash below.
Tash: How did you discover your love for visual art?
Sanithna: I have always been into drawing since I was 3-years-old. Although I was more interested in art and drawing on walls as a kid, my mom groomed me to prepare for white collar America. We came from a pretty impoverished background, so that was the path she felt would help me gain a better quality of life. I grew up a skate boarder and naturally, the scene left me entrenched in visual imagery. This opened my eyes to the vast opportunities that were actually available through art and public art. I knew even when I decided to pursue college and the path toward a white collar lifestyle that I wanted to go into art and find a way to make a fulltime gig out of art.
Tash: You work is known to present soft but stunning imagery, with clear line work and soft brush strokes of vibrant color. Can you tell me a little about how you discovered your unique style?
Sanithna: I focus my work on the human condition, and I am always trying to find the right mediums to express this, whether through oil painting, acrylic, or mural art.
Tash: You have, in more recent years, begun working on public art projects. How did this come about and what is your experience with public art vs. personal projects?
Sanithna: About a year ago, a good friend Peter Ferrari approached me about doing a piece in Cabbagetown for Forward Warrior. That piece helped to open up the doors for a number of different opportunities, including the Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs’ public art initiative, Elevate, and a various projects on the BeltLine.
Personal projects take more time than public art projects, and you usually have more time to put into them. Still, I enjoy public art. It’s a flatter style of art, and is really more like performance art.
Tash: What do you feel about at Atlanta newly revitalized, thriving street art scene?
Sanithna: We historically haven’t really seen a strong emphasis on public art in Atlanta. The city has always lend more on the conservative when it comes to this type of public expression, but now people are responding well to it. The city is now looking to muralist to help create a more beautified environment. I think this is great, and am glad to be a part of this as it is creating way more opportunities for artists to be celebrated.
Tash: Congratulations on having your worked displayed in the High Museum’s “Sprawl!” exhibition! It’s definitely a big deal. How did you become involved in the opportunity?
Sanithna: Thank you. I’ve down played this because I hate disappointment, but it really didn’t hit me until close to the opening reception that my work was being exhibited in a museum. Michael Rooks, the High’s Curator of Modern Contemporary Art and Marianne Lambert, Atlanta-based Curator, visited my studio to check out my work. They really liked what they saw, and picked the pieces they thought would be a good fit for inclusion in the exhibition.
Tash: Are there any artists involved in this new creative wave that you’ve had an interest in collaborating with?
Sanithna: Honestly, as long as you are going for it and doing good work and not being a dick I’m going to be interested in going for it with you and working together.
Tash: Where do you hope to see your work in the next five years?
Sanithna: My end goal is to find a way to sustain a lifestyle through making art. I don’t want art to be my side hustle. I really want to grow and to make sure my ideas resonate well with people. I really just want to remain focused on creating.
Sanithna’s work is currently on view at the High Museum of Art Atlanta’s “Sprawl! Drawing Outside the Lines,” exhibition through October 4. The exhibit features works on paper of over 75 artists in Georgia, including the cities of Athens, Atlanta, Columbus, Decatur, Lawrenceville, and Smyrna. The exhibition, a follow up to the successful 2013 exhibition “Drawing Inside the Perimeter,” is breaking traditional museum barriers by highlighting artists from a diverse mix of backgrounds, thus attracting and inviting a broad audience of visitors of all ages, cultural backgrounds and races.