Jonathan Zawada

Oct 30th, 2017

Jonathan Zawada


Centered around the intersection of the virtual and the physical both in concept and process, Australian born, Los Angeles based artist Jonathan Zawada is often seeking to create tangible artifacts of transient, ephemeral virtual experiences in his work. Known for his multi-faceted approach to the field of art and design which weave both the analogue and digital, often focusing on a blend between the artificial and the natural world. Zawada’s practice is informed by his early roots in web design and coding and his further evolution into commercial graphic design, illustration and art direction and now includes object and furniture design, sculpture, video, installation and painting.

How does technology affect your work?

Technology is a totally integral part of both my process and my motivation. I’ve always felt challenged by how to resolve a dichotomy that exists in me – that the vast majority of my daily, personal experiences are funneled through the digital or virtual but the experiences in my life that have the most meaning are those from the real, natural world. It’s a strange push and pull that I think probably affects everyone, that our lives are so completely shaped by technology but because technology, by definition, is so recent in the history of humanity it also doesn’t contain the sort of deeper sense of meaning that a view of a beautiful landscape has. The ping of your phone can trigger a fleeting endorphin rush but it doesn’t leave you with the gratifying sense of completeness that the form of a passionfruit flower has. There’s a sense of wonderment at the miracle of what we can create through technology that is exciting and bewildering and that is a vital part of my subjective human experience but when I try to recapture the feeling I had when I first used the internet I can’t find it but I can easily recall any number of times that I’ve jumped from a rock into a crystal clear ocean. I’m forever drawn to trying to resolve that conflict in me and that involves a constant interaction with technology that further feeds that cycle.

Do your parents like your work?

I’m not even sure! I know my dad at least says he likes some of what I’ve done but to be honest I think he’s barely even seen a fraction of it and I don’t think he really has much of an idea of what I do at all, he’d much rather be talking to me about his chickens and his garlic crops. I think my parents are just happy that I have some sort of job and aren’t starving on the streets. Strangely, with most things I do I always keep the question in my mind of “what would my brother think of this?”, he is a software developer and wouldn’t ever visit an art gallery if it weren’t to support me and I’m always conscious of creating work that – even if he doesn’t like it – he wouldn’t think was stupid or a complete waste of time.

What was the worst reaction you have had to your work?

A friend of mine once came to a show of paintings I produced that were comprised of densely packed horizontal black and white strokes which caused a kind of vibration that makes them something of an optical illusion, they kind of shimmer in space. She came up to me later, shielding her eyes from the gallery around her and said “Why do you always have to make art that is intense and hard to look at? Its hurting my eyes”, I think she added that I had given her a migraine.

Any upcoming artists we should know about?

My favourite artist at the moment is Kim Laughton. His work is absolutely incredible. I think he was initially a photographer but turned to 3D and digital work a number of years ago. He’s incredible knowledge of lighting and the technical process of photography means his digital work is immaculate but in 3d he has found a way to dial up his ability to control every detail to an unbelievable degree. Conceptually his work is very rigorous and deals with many aspects of culture, in particular digital culture and his criticisms of the way we approach digital culture. He’s intensely optimistic about technology, much more so than I am, and it is that optimism that leads him to be critical of it which I think is fascinating and refreshing.