Aof Smith plunges into the world of stories and memory, training a surrealist lens on the gap between past and present. His paintings are ephemeral landscapes, populated with puppy-eyed creatures and wind-swept sprites. Yet Smith’s creative versatility ensures endless viewer experiences. We travel to the intersections of nightmares, fairy tales, and fog-laden woodlands.
“Stories in the past are always interesting. Time passes, leaving people some experience, relationships and development from environmental factors, which is life itself. Human brains can analyze data which leads to reactions called behaviors.” ~ Aof Smith
His 2010 portfolio begins with dark overtures of excess; monsters; and every horrifying beast from under the circus tent. “Moh” and “Land of Abnormal” are polished like new plastic, with figures that exude artifice. The drive for material consumption is captured in swathes of shameless pink, gauzy purple, and electric blue. Their shimmering husks promise empty shells devoid of ethical consideration. If hell is under the circus, Smith has found it.
By contrast, Smith’s most recent work gains a softer, primeval edge, capturing the dreamlike quality of childhood memory. Like portals into stray thoughts, they are moments without time, place, rhyme, or reason. The hero of “New Toy in my World” is just one of the fantastic animals- animals, rabbits, dogs, bears, mice- morphed into critters without identity. Each work teeters bravely on the edge of grotesque. Smith’s talent is infusing them with the most familiar, base instincts: wonder, confusion, excitement, fear.
Other pieces weave together the sentiment found in fairy tale villains, and the caprice of a cold winter’s night. In black-and-white dualism, “You and Me” explores question of solitude and companionship. Transitioning to his 2013 portfolio, a raven is introduced to the soft bunny and rabbit motif, juxtaposed with the outlines of “American Gothic,” “The Last Supper,” and Magritte’s “The Son of Man.” These are intense minutes of reflection: decision, indecision, letting go, and holding onto a ruthless wind. This is the metamorphosis from child, to beast of a dark cosmos.
The memory captured in Smith’s paintings transcends all names, dates, and numbers. They are mythical, glistening and trembling with unspoken emotion. Each is filled with human uncertainty, about the worlds of our dreams, and the beyond.
“I have my freedom living in the society so that I gain experience from my journey of life, seeing people from all walks of life. Some want to be comfortable, some want to be happy; however, some are suffering…. I express all suffering through the images of memories… to connect past and present.”