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Abstract explorations of colour, line and form from John Zabawa

John Zabawa is a bit of a mystery. We’ve seen his paintings cropping up all over the place over the last year or so, nestled deep in Tumblr’s art blog archives and thrown up on fashion Insta’s as #inspo. Googling his name brings up beautiful, simplistic, clean graphic design work in the realms of branding and art direction for American lifestyle brands. And while he is clearly a very talented designer, we’re drawn even more-so to his paintings. Documented on a blog by the name of ‘topmatter’, an elusive link noted very humbly at the bottom of his folio website, John makes paintings, collages and drawings that look like they could be from yesterday or 50 years ago.

John’s works are effortless in colour, line and form. With strong nods towards mid-century aesthetics, Californian design and modernism, his paintings and drawings can appear vintage at first glance. His colour palettes are muted, using natural tones of red, green, yellow and blue. Mostly abstract, we can see soft narratives running through his work, mostly referring to nature. A woodblock print with a view of mountains and sea from a window frame, expanses of colour against negative space, alluding to land and shadows cast by the sun. His work is an exercise in imagination; he leaves just enough empty space to imagine our own stories in his paintings.

The Chicago-based designer is about to launch a new art and design studio by the name of Topmatter, with the first project being an identity for a new French restaurant in our very own Sydney. Consider us ‘subscribed’ to these updates.

See more from John Zabawa —  


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