Do you believe in aliens? Aryo Toh Djojo asks this very question in his surrealist airbrush paintings
The LA-based artist first picked up an airbrush a year ago, and since then he’s been creatively pursuing his interests in UFOs.
- Ayla Angelos
- 24 February 2021
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
A supportive network is crucial to the development of any creative, especially if that network is built up of those closest to you – like your family. For Aryo Toh Djojo, his interests in the arts were nurtured since childhood. “For some reason, I think my family knew that one day I would become an artist,” he tells It’s Nice That. So much so that when Aryo announced his decision to apply to ArtCentre College of Design in Pasadena, LA, they were more than encouraging and told him to go for it. “My uncle went to that school for a bit, so they knew how prestigious it was and when they found out I got in, they were stoked.”
Besides this, Aryo grew up skateboarding in the 90s and developed a passion for skate graphics and ads, which later encouraged him to work for a skateboarding company. As such, he applied for the illustration and design programme at ArtCentre, before realising his desire to steer away from commercial work and instead turn his focus towards painting, in turn switching over to the fine art programme. “That was when things got weird,” he says. “I started making abstract paintings and experimenting with different techniques, mediums and concepts.” Much of his inspiration at time derived from artists such as Rauschenberg, De Kooning, Guston, Richard Prince, Ed Rusha and Baldessari to name a few, specifically for the ways in which he found the artworks confusing. Yet equally, this enticed Aryho to create something similar.
A little while down the line Aryo began experimenting with an airbrush, a move triggered by his frustration with other styles and techniques. He ended up painting a landscape depicting a UFO, and decided to “call it a day”. But Aryo has always been intrigued by aliens and UFOs, so instead of giving up, in some senses of the word, he started to dive further into this particular – and peculiar – topic, “looking deep into whatever the hell was going on with them.” The year later in 2020, a friend lent him his airbrush and, once the pandemic hit, Aryo was determined to figure out how to use the tool. “So that’s how I started making the airbrush paintings,” he says, noting how his works will always sing with a kind of spirituality, linking back to his interests in the UFO phenomenon. “From what I’ve gathered, I think they’re flying around and contacting us telepathically and giving us signs to actually try and help us. We just have to listen and be aware. Hopefully it can give us another way of how we can save ourselves from destroying the planet with these conversations.”
When describing his recent works, Aryo says that he has no favoured pieces: “I love and hate them all”. He’s only been utilising the tool of the airbrush for about a year now, and it’s a method that he finds frustrating at times. When the inspiration strikes, however, he’ll head down to his studio around midday, have a scroll of Instagram for about an hour or so, start his research and gather a few images from the web, and build himself up to start working on a piece. The frustrations, in this sense, come directly from the process at hand. “I have to water down my acrylics enough so that it can flow through the airbrush,” he adds. “But by doing that, I’m mixing the colours on the surface and painting in layers. Almost like glazing or painting in watercolours.”
This process increases the chances of an error and, if a mistake has occurred, it’s hard to fix and can lead to a muddy surface. He also avoids the use of masking tape or stencils, so the freehand method of painting tends to be a risky move. “So sometimes my hand can slip and I’ll mess up on an outline; sometimes the airbrush clogs up and that can be annoying as well,” he continues. "It takes a lot of practice controlling the airbrush and you have to be totally aware of what you’re doing before you start spraying. I’m really stoked when a painting comes out the way I want it to.”
One of our most favoured here at It’s Nice That, is the piece entitled Daddy’s Home [pictured above]. It’s the one that shows a dusky sky as seen through a window, where rain drops are splattered on the glass and painted in the most intricate of manners. Then, but not instantly, you’ll notice the UFO flying in the sky – almost missable as it’s near enough the same size as its accompanying water drops. It’s a spellbinding display of artistry, and one that illustrates Aryo’s fascination with the subject of aliens and outer space. However, as he states, there are no concrete meanings behind his works, and he wants to keep his messages open ended. “They’re sometimes uncanny or of the mundane moments in life,” he says. “But it’s also about that moment when the conscious and unconscious mind meet. Similar to that moment when the drugs start kicking in or that weird moment that happens during meditation or a day dream.”
“I don’t really know how to explain it,” he concludes. “But yeah, it’s basically that WTF moment when you see a UFO in real life and your mind starts to shift.”
Aryo Toh Djojo: Slurring Your Texts (Copyright © Aryo Toh Djojo, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.