Calgary artist Jason Gogo making name for himself in Tinseltown

Wed Mar 12, 3:52 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES - Calgary artist Jason Gogo was still pumped as he held court in a swank Beverly Hills hotel recently, delighted that several Hollywood stars showed up at his "gifting suite" to score some of his paintings amid the frenzied leadup to the Academy Awards.
While fading stars like Tara Reid, Rosanna Arquette, Scott Baio and former 'N Synch member Joey Fatone were among those who walked away from a hip L.A. nightclub with some of his original paintings, the prolific Gogo has developed a bigger and more far-reaching fan base in Tinseltown for a form of art he's dubbed "organic expressionism."

Rapper Ice T was one of his first celebrity fans, Gogo recalls. "It was kind of funny because when he looked at it, he said: 'That bitch is cold, Jack' and I didn't know if he was complimenting me or he didn't like it," he says with a laugh.

Corporate art-seekers already love Gogo - he has sold major works to entertainment companies, insurance firms and investment bankers, both in Canada and the U.S. - and now Hollywood celebrities are starting to take notice of his colourful and heavily textured abstract oil paintings.

Canadian fans include the Tragically Hip and Bif Naked, and British chef Gordon Ramsay also owns a Gogo.
Gogo's pre-Oscar gifting suite was the brainstorm of the Silver Spoon entertainment marketing company, a firm that hosted numerous swag suites leading up to the Oscars. Founders Melissa Lemer and Lorena Bendinskas met Gogo in January at one of their Golden Globes events, where he told them about his work.

"They saw what I did and they were just really interested," says Gogo, the son of well-known Alberta landscape painter Milton Achtimichuk.
"So I sent some work down for them to view, and they said: 'Look, if you can create some kind of limited-edition thing for people, they're just going to love it.' So I went to work and I created 35 unique pieces, had them packaged, did up some brochures, booklets, all that sort of thing. "And honestly, I just could not believe the response. It really excited me."

Lemer became such a fan, in fact, that she herself is now the proud owner of one of Gogo's paintings. "I have a piece, and it's my favourite thing in my house; I absolutely love it," she says. "He's a great artist, and I think it's inspiring to see him and talk to him about how he made it. The nature-based elements of his style are what makes his art so outstanding - the touches of copper and gold among the other colours. And now a lot of celebrities are really catching on to his work."

Gogo, 40, has just finished shooting a pilot for an L.A.-situated reality show based on his artwork. The show is from Interior Day Pictures, a Calgary production company that's expanding into the United States.

The buzz about Gogo in Los Angeles, in fact, is becoming so loud that he plans to move to the city soon for at least a few months.
"It's a small community here - I really noticed it being in L.A. for just two days," Gogo, dressed in a flamboyant silk brocade coat and sporting a mohawk, said over cocktails as he showed one of his works to a high-powered Hollywood talent agent interested in representing him."Everybody is really part of that same food chain - if you're in the entertainment industry, if you're in the media, if you're in management, if you're in art, you sort of gravitate towards each other. A lot of musicians and actors, as well, are interested in art because a lot of them are artists themselves."

He believes his art is taking off in California for a reason. "The culture down here in California - it's organic and alive, and that's how I would describe my art," he says. "You can put one of my paintings next to a buffalo painting with a leather frame or you can put it in a house with chandeliers or you could put it in a white contemporary house and it'll fit in, and that's because it's like a nice piece of rock or stone or a nice piece of wood - it's timeless. And when you actually illuminate this art, it becomes quite spectacular, so maybe the California sunshine helps too."

Art - and the business of art - is clearly in Gogo's blood. "In my father's family, there are 11 artists, musicians and actors. Art is a business, and this is what they've chosen for their business," he says. "I view it that way as well. The first painting I ever sold for $10,000 years ago? I immediately turned around and bought another painting for $7,000 because I really wanted it. And that seemed totally natural to me."

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