Aof Smith’s paintings are the visual equivalent of a sugar rush. Candy colored and surreal, with high contrast and swirling light, they’re bubbly and lighter than air but destined to crash back to Earth. The Thai artist’s characters are warped by obesity, often perfectly round. Their eyes are unfocused looking at everything and nothing all at once. Fast food mascots are paired with Christian imagery, all packaged to look like the disposable plastic toys planted in a kids’ meal. Rainbow colors tantalize, coaxing you with their perfect blends and rich palettes. It’s gourmet candy in painting form.
Smith is from Nakhon Sri Thammarat province but based in Bangkok. He was raised in an artistic family and his dad was an art teacher. He says he was heavily inspired by California artists, which helped him find his current style in 2014. A single character painted in oil on linen takes about ten days while a full composition takes about six weeks.
Originally his main focus was materialism and over-consumption, and these are still very prevalent themes across his work. His original Furry character still appears in his paintings in fluffy dog form, painted alternately as young, old, curious, or bored. And there are numerous religious references like halos and rosary beads, meant as a form of unheard prayer while the world falls to ruin around us.
Death and disease are common topics. “Viva La Vida” is about Frida Kahlo and her ubiquitous unibrow ascending to the next life, surrounded by coronavirus proteins floating in sickly, glowing greens. “She’s on the journey to the land beyond life,” he says. “She leaves Earth behind and is now somewhere in her world of imagination.”
“Monster Music” uses sound as a vehicle to talk about basic human urges. “Human consciousness is a concert played in our minds,” Smith explains. “So I created characters boiling with rage and conflicts that are at the root cause of endless wars.” The piece is overcrowded by rotund characters and bathed in a blood red light with a demented Ronald conducting a mad orchestra.
“The Lost Can” is an animated cola can, depicted as a hot rod screeching through a post-apocalyptic wasteland with demonic eyes glowing green and blades for hands. It’s an environmental message, a comment on how our prolific waste will stick around for quite sometime and come back to harm us. It’s typical of his style, connecting with his junk food roots, using comical and colorful characters to raise very important issues. Life’s depressing enough and art like this offers a way for us to stick with reality but absorb it in a less stressful way.