6 questions with...Jonathan Zawada

PopTech’s series, 6 questions with… gives us a chance to get into the heads of social innovators, technologists, artists, designers, and scientists to see what makes them tick.

Over Time, the solo show of Australian-based artist Jonathan Zawada, recently closed at Prism Gallery in Los Angeles. A recent post on Triangulation described Zawada’s surprising process to create the large-scale landscape topographies he exhibited:

Zawada collected and compared a variety of data series that extrapolate information over time, such as “Marijuana usage among year 12 students vs. CD and Vinyl record sales between 1975 and 2000” or “Value of land per square meter in Second Life vs. Value of land per square foot in Dubai between 2007 and 2009.” The data is then manipulated through a 3D fractal program and the resulting environment becomes a virtual abstraction that mimics a mountainous landscape.

PopTech highlighted a piece from the show on our Tumblr recently, but we were interested to hear more about what informs Zawada's work. 

What’s the mark you’re hoping to leave on the world? Why is your work with Over Time relevant at this point in time?
I hope to at least be able to contribute to the artistic reflection of the impact that new technologies are having on how we construct our reality in our day-to-day lives. Over Time is really a part of my continued exploration of how to be able to create artifacts from my transient and ephemeral digital experiences. It feels relevant now precisely because of how unnoticeably this technology has ingrained itself in our lives.

If I'd been a fly on the wall of your office/studio yesterday, what would I have seen you doing?
Working with my wife Annie and my cat Phatskull, I hunched over a computer - and sporadically a sketchbook - fine-tuning the design of a logo for a new restaurant in Brooklyn for the first half of the day. I spent the second half working in the program Terragen on an image for a new painting derived from Google n-gram data on faith and belief.

What do you wish you had known when you began working on Over Time?
How to model virtual 3D landscapes and how to paint oil paintings!

What was the pathway that brought you to this work?
Some of my previous bodies of work had explored aspects of information theory and fractal structures. In developing that work it occurred to me that images could be self-referential both in their visual structure and in reference to their information content. I produced some studies that were mountain ranges, which were distorted into the shapes of their own histogram graphs. This evolved into the concept of creating mountain ranges from other data sources. From there I further studied traditional landscape painting to find ways of resolving the coldness of the concept and core structures of the imagery I was creating with the humanity of the overall concept which led me to discover the work of incredible artists like Helmut Ditsch.

Who or what has most influenced your life and work?
My wife Annie. Prior to meeting her my appreciation of art was very focused on the conceptual side. She taught me to appreciate and enjoy art for what it is, simple human expression that isn't the sum of reason or clever intellectualism.

What book is on your nightstand right now?
I Am A Strange Loop
by Douglas Hofstadter

Images: Jonathan Zawada

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