Thom Smith is an artist from Brooklyn, New York currently residing and working in Tokyo, Japan. He studied art in NYC at The Cooper Union (class of 2002). His work is primarily in the form of drawing with a graphic style favoring brush and ink, collage, and various forms of printmaking. Often times, the work finds itself in book format and his current body of work has taken on a narrative quality as well.
In the past couple years a new body of work has emerged in the form of printmaking. When the project began, it found great influence in medieval woodcuts and pre-renaissance stained glass. His interest lies mostly in the bold graphic quality of the images and the 2-D stacking of information. These mostly religious images were created in a time before the rules of perspective were understood yet strived to depict intricate stories to a mostly illiterate audience. This non-verbal telling of stories is central to his print series.
In his initial visit to Japan, Thom acquired a few books about yokai (spirits of Japanese folklore in the form of preternatural creatures) and has been obsessed ever since. The nihonga style has greatly informed his most recent prints which mix this early manga illustration style with a more primitive medieval style.
The print series has been dubbed Death In The Afterlife, The title refers to the spiritual journey at play in the images and is about cycles of death. Within the prints, different religions and cultures are explored and often intermingle to form a greater spiritual understanding. As these different mythologies are employed a composite myth emerges and the story is told. The cast of characters expands with each image and the viewer comes to learn of each character’s role.
In an effort to fill the story gaps between each print, Thom has begun a serial zine. The resulting drawings tell the story in a more complete manner, although it is still obfuscated by the disuse of language. The style used draws more on his manga influence and is much looser than the prints, employing a more expressive brushy kind of mark making.