Scarlet Mottif, making art using code

The installation of Linear Res on display at  Noor Riyadh Festival in Saudi Arabia. Photos/Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Through his wildvisions, Mottif has been instrumental in creating some of the ballistic visuals that have acted as backdrops at different concerts

It has always been said that art is the way of life. From food, dressing to things such as painting and music, there is always art. But of course, none of these things are actually technology or coding.
Yet that is what Scarlet Mottif does, he makes his art with code and presents it using light. 

Born Noel Apitta, he is an artist who has made his mark on Uganda’s concert scene. Through his wildvisions, he has been instrumental in creating some of the ballistic visuals that have acted as backdrops at different concerts.
But all these were before he found his calling around digital art and later adopting the moniker, Scarlet Mottif.
“It does not mean anything in particular, it is my way of separating my life from my artwork,” he says in an interview phone call.

His art
His art is digital in nature, abstract in that it does not conform to anything and in his own words, he says, “it is autonomous in a sense that it executes according to my commands.”
Digital, virtual art or whatever different name the world could have for this kind of art is still a fresh and young direction of creativity. Since it involves coding and programming, there are always arguments if the discipline is indeed an art or a science.

But one thing many people cannot argue is, it is a fact that Scarlet Mottif uses a lot of creativity to bring his larger than life works into a reality.
With the world changing and many things going digital, it is not surprising that much of Scarlet Mottif’s work started picking steam on social media. He was constantly posting his works on Instagram, because on a daily basis, he had something different, people started noticing what he was doing.

“My work does not come from planning, it is from interactions everyday. I write code to develop new works,” he says.
His works constantly change that even when he constantly creates, it always feels different, something that he says he intends.
“I think of my work as a river and a fisherman. You can never step into the same river twice, it keeps flowing,” he says. 

Working with the industry 
In 2022, Scarlet Mottif raised the Ugandan flag in ways many could not understand; he was the only Ugandan who showcased at the Noor Riyadh Festival in Saudi Arabia. 
The annual gathering is only two years old and yet, it has since become the biggest gathering for light artists.
Scarlett Mottif was joined by various artists from the US, Italy, Belgium, France, Japan, Spain and Australia among others.  But before all that started, Scarlet Mottif had been in Uganda honing his craft. A former student of Kings College Budo, he studied engineering at the university.

Mottif was the only Ugandan who showcased at the festival. 

“I have only started exploring art the last two years,” he says.
Scarlet Mottif has always been fascinated by moving pictures and film. It is not that surprising that he somehow ended up doing visuals for music shows, especially at the time he worked with Collective UG.
He has also worked with concert organisers, notably saxophonist and singer Mo Roots’ last show in Kampala in 2019.
He says he chose to do this kind of art because it agrees with the way his mind works.
He held his first exhibition at the Jinja Innovation Village in October 2020. He later held Por Talks at Afriart Gallery in Kampala.

It was his first exhibition in Kampala.
Much as it lasted only a few days, it was fairly attended.
“An interesting thing about this art is that it is hard to explain until people experience it. It is hard to explain that it works well with word of mouth,” he says.
However, people who came through for the exhibition in Kampala were happy with what they saw. 
“It is hard to know if they liked it. We also do not know how to sell it, but people came and took pictures with the art,” he says.

Exhibiting at Riyadh
In November 2022, Scarlet Mottif showcased at Noor Riyadh Festival, after one of the festival curators saw his work on Instagram and reached out.
Like most Ugandans, Scarlet Mottif had only experienced that Arab world through Dubai, thus Saudi Arabia was such an experience.
“The cultural context through which it happens, we explore a different angle which is meeting people who are Saudi Arabian,” he says.
In Riyadh, he says they created a sense of communal art experience through an open air gallery,  “every person can access this art.”
He says art galleries in Uganda are free but not open and accessible for people from all walks of life.

At Noor Riyadh, Scarlet Mottif showcased an installation aptly titled Linear Res.
Linear Res is a freestanding audio-visual LED light installation, a physical manifestation of a stream of consciousness, poised at the threshold of where the present daydreams of a future horizon. It sits between the land of what is and what we imagine, a transition point through which our dreams become reality.
Originally conceived as a part of an iterative daily generative art series, the visuals are themselves a chronology of ideas frozen in time. Evoking the complex, sometimes messy, always surprising process which lets us draw our ideas from dream-space into waking our world.