Art by Jason LaMotte


Background
I was born in Los Angeles, under the sign of Aquarius in 1967, and raised in a northern suburb of that city, Valencia (It was much nicer then, with only a scattering of new houses and shops, along with Newhall and CalArts, amidst hills covered with grass and Oak trees, and full and snakes and coyotes). I was almost always creative, thoughtful, and curious.

After high school I was primarily interested in graphic arts, photography, drawing, and painting.
I liked taking pictures of people (especially girls), for images part portraiture, part style, and suffused in an aesthetic textural mode, one capable of delivering a particular optical sensation, I longed to reveal. We will witness the shadowy and feminine recur as interests throughout the work. I spent a great deal of time in darkrooms. I enjoyed being alone in the small, dark space, working with chemicals and light sensitive papers. I would be held in awe by the emergence of the multiple tones of the chemicals burning dark, and I would soon try to effect them in painterly ways. I found myself, however, feeling restricted by what seemed a limitation of situations to shoot.
The potential and void of painting and drawing exerted a tremendous force on me, seeming irresistibly fundamental, primary, and basic. Though I was often frustrated by my attempts, I could not keep from trying again, and again. I was obsessed with trying to indicate certain states of feeling through optical sensations in visual art, finding myself, usually, starting with a semiotic or representational framework that I could confound, subvert, or cover over with a sensational, semiotic-defying, texture. My program constantly puts art between poles, seeking ways to register and reconfigure a pulse or interplay between a pair of states in dynamic opposition.

Painting/Drawing Education, part 1
I enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, focusing ther on drawing and painting, but, also, studying printmaking and photography. Photographically, I was looking for methods with immediacy, which could transmit greater, heightened, emotional force. I began working through the stages of impulse, development, and completion very quickly. One series focused on conveying some of my struggle with creative communication, and some of the mystery, annihilation of self, and ritual that might go into artistic materialization. One day, overcome with the forms of tree branches in the park, I shot and processed this subtle and organic set. I was also extremely drawn to the desert, and trying to illuminate something of its form through my darkened, dirty mode. My emphasis was on painting and drawing, however, and in these areas I learned much about certain powers of the image, or ways to gather and transmit subconscious energies through the body and into the marks of a work. I received my BFA in 1993 in fine art painting.

After school I continued my investigations in painting, plunging deeper into the practice and pushing the limits of what I was capable of expressing. Inspired by William Burroughs and his writings on cut-ups, I did many pieces relying on heavy use of collage, then tried the technique on a very large and dark piece. The collage aesthetic fit well with my ‘automatic’ image emitter techniques, which favored an intuitive, subconscious response capable of escaping conscious control. Once I had got a handle of it, I didn’t have to cut my work physically anymore, only in my process.

Events from this time in my personal life lent the work a greater urgency in the quest for meaning, something that meshed well with my impulses toward complexity and ambiguity. Complexity and ambiguity are states I take to be real, actual modes of the cosmos (not exclusively, of course, as there is also a high degree of functionality and many others), whereas order and meaning I take to be, in many ways, human, societal, constructs. Since as an artist, and especially through these years being discussed, I am concerned with making something that is biologically or cosmically real manifest in the actuality of the cultural, I am not looking to impose much rationality, order, control, or meaning. For the most part, I see these these as outside the forces of art, being, usually, techniques of routine and cliche in service of an ego, and devices that should only be allowed in enough to hold a piece together, in a basic, physical sense, and present it in its complex and ambiguous glory. A couple of unfinished oil paintings.

The work of this period feels very raw to me. I oscillate between modes of beauty, and also a questioning and stretching of it. Futile rebellions in painting against  aesthetics had me embracing the harsh and savage in an effort to utilize a bewilderment of expressive force. I took steps further during a 1998 period in Oakland, in a quick and scary expressionistic series, and then in pieces from the fireproof hotel, in attempting to transmit the blunt "facts" of a life lived with moments of real intensity and excess.

I wanted continue with the semiotics of a representational and cartoon visual language to heighten the tension between the frozen image of the picture, with its textural or haptic quality, and its possible subtle allusions to narrative and symbolic metaphor. A recurring dominant set of oppositional states for me has always been that of a phenomenologically expressive, primal drive and a contemporary pop leaning, which brings codified semiotic references. And then there was something else about 1999, on a personal, and, perhaps, world, level, like high-tide, which encouraged this apocalyptic series.

My sketchbooks have always been an important part of my practice. Here's some samples from 1995 - 2000.

Digital, Moving, and Narrative Media Intermission
Temporarily satisfied with my investigation in painting to confront a growing desire I had to work with visually related time-based media, I went through the certificate program at Los Angeles City College in cinema production. This lead to the increased use of the computer for animation and sound design in some cartoons. I made some short films (converting my first, Captured, to a vector-driven animation), did some interactive and multimedia online pieces in Flash, and had fun making digital collage designs of my work. I also tried another pop art form of visual narrative in the comic book project Deepwhirl, brushed up on my life figure drawing, and occasionally shot, digitally now, more pictures of the fashionable and feminine.

Painting/Drawing Education, part 2
After a few years without engaging in it seriously, I became eager to get back to drawing and painting. I missed the tactile nature and simplicity of working with fluid pigment on paper. This time around there would be some changes in my approach. I wanted to clean up some of the murkiness of my pictures, and give them a more precise ambiguity, one that relied more on the referential functioning of the cartoon drawing. The paper Bridge series from 2003 shows some of these results.
This work lead to further plays on paper, and some paintings on panel.
I started thinking about continuing my studies at graduate school. I thought that it would be interesting to put my experience in that situation, and that I would benefit from a close interaction with other artists and further formal education. With this in mind, in 2004, I did a series of oil on panel paintings called Materiality and Illusion, and also a series of acrylic ink on paper pieces, Stomata, utilizing a comic panel play on twisting visual narratives.
In addition to the influence of surrealist, cartoon, fantasy, street, and other lowbrow art forms, I was also looking at the ink and brush work of Soga Shohaku.

In the fall of 2005 I began grad school at CGU.
In 2006 I went through an intense engagement and evolution with my painting, working with the CGU faculty, and most closely with my committee, to obtain a higher level of professionalism, and a body of work which might be more fitting in the contemporary gallery artworld. Here are some acylic on canvas paintings marking my efforts of this time.
In 2007 I brought it all together for a series of ten 6' x 8' paintings, some of which were included in my thesis show, and the rest of which were completed shortly after school.
Here are some more samples from my sketchbooks, from 2004 - 2007.