Jonathan Swift

Painting and Drawing

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” – Viktor E. Frankl

 I am fascinated with the contradiction between our human craving for meaning and the apparent randomness of the natural universe. We struggle to find purpose in all the joy and suffering we experience. My work explores this need and the many ways we seek, find, or create meaning for ourselves.

My images often begin with a mood—some complex emotion at the edge of my awareness. Sometimes I just start painting without any plan, and a composition emerges. Other times I begin with my camera and develop my idea from a photograph. I usually paint in many layers, adding and partially removing them in a deliberately time-consuming process that allows me to let an idea evolve. This layering process results in random lines and textures that give a sense of depth and an illusion of history to the final painting.


Born to American parents in the rainforest region of Peru, Jonathan Swift was raised in a small religious community that worked with native South American tribal groups. Caught at the chaotic center of multiple cultural rivers, he grew a simultaneous sense of love for, and alienation from, each of these competing streams. This tension drives a creative aesthetic that embraces chaos while searching for the hidden, ordered layers beneath it.

Swift has studied music, musical instrument making, digital art, and graphic design. In recent years, he’s returned to his early love of painting and drawing, focusing on traditional fine art media including ink on panel, oil painting and graphite drawing.