Jonathan Zawada makes all sorts of work in all sorts of mediums. He seems happy to paint, to illustrate, to design, which means his portfolio is both unique and totally intriguing. We caught up with Jonathan to talk work, location, and his experience with Todd Selby…
Can you introduce yourself? What do you do exactly?
My daily occupation has been changing shape over the past couple of years, and I’ve been spending more and more time working on art projects and exhibitions. For the past decade I’ve worked freelance for clients, mostly in the music and fashion industries, doing illustration, graphic design, textiles, branding, art direction and web design. And I still do a lot of that – I have to pay the bills somehow – but gradually the balance has been tipping in favour of independent art projects.
Because you work in so many different mediums your work seems un-categorisable. How important is it that you work in different ways?
When I started out as a designer it was very much in the graphic tradition, and my illustration and art interests sat totally outside of that – they were things I did after hours. In my design work I’ve always tried to avoid replicating a specific style or aesthetic – it seems to me that having a recognisable style acts more as an advertisement for yourself, as opposed to for your clients. Each medium should be appropriate for its message. Most of the time I start with a concept rather than a visual and end up finding the medium that perfectly supports and articulates the idea I’m wanting to explore.
Can you tell us a little about Over Time. How did that come about?
The idea for the Over Time landscape paintings came out of research I was doing for a previous exhibition, for which I was looking into fractals and self-similarity. I wanted to explore the idea of a structure being representative of its information content. At first this became mountain ranges which were the same as their histograms, but it quickly turned into mountain ranges that were derived from other graph data. As an artistic tradition, the idea of the landscape painting also appealed to the broader artistic concepts I was interested in – how to create artifacts from digital experiences – and in this idea I saw a way to construct a familiar, humanistic representation of the over-saturation of information that constitutes most of our virtual experiences. This kind of vast, dwarfing, alienating amount of information that is abstracted several steps from physical reality drives a lot of how people shape their world, and computer-generated, graph-derived landscapes seemed like a great visual representation of that.
Does Sydney affect your work in anyway way? Does that specific location influence your work?
It’s probably not the best time to ask as I’m just about to move to Los Angeles! I’m originally from Perth, a city that is to Australia what Australia is to the rest of the world – far removed, which in fact is the primary influence on the creative work being produced here. It instills a feeling of isolation. At first this is both motivating and liberating – there’s not much history or heritage here, which allows you to create your own path, and gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. But it also means opportunities to make a living are few and far between. One incredible aspect of Sydney is comfort – the environment is beautiful and the lifestyle borders on perfection, which really helps put things in perspective if you work within an industry that can cause you to focus a little too much on possessions and status.
We saw you and your wife Annie on The Selby. How was that?
It was great – he was such a lovely guy and his enthusiasm and energy is pretty infectious. Annie was especially excited as she follows the blogs more than I do (I confess that at first I didn’t really know who or what it was when I got the call about it). I was surprised to find how widespread his readership is – after our shots were posted we had all sorts of random strangers coming up to us on the street, confessing that they’d seen our house, and asking us where we got our couch from or saying they liked this or that. Mostly they then followed that up by saying they felt like a bit of a creep or a voyeur, which is funny!
What’s next for you? More of everything?
More of everything! I’m moving to LA in a few weeks and I’ll be working there for a few months on an exhibition later in the year which looks like it will be in London. My hope is that I can spend more time working on art and see where I end up. For the first time in a while I have no real plans after that which is an exciting feeling.