with David Popa
Working on Ice Floes, David Popa Renders Ephemeral Portraits that Fracture and Split into the Sea
After a decade of living in Finland, David Popa has established a fruitful creative collaboration that would be impossible in his native New York City. The artist frequently works on land and sea, particularly the fractured ice floes of the Baltic, to render large-scale portraits and figurative murals that draw connections between the ephemerality of human life and the environment. Whether depicting his wife or newborn child in intimate renderings, he highlights the inevitability of change as time passes, seasons transition, and the climate warms.
Popa’s use of such unconventional canvases emerged from a desire for adventure and child-like play, when he put on a drysuit, climbed onto his paddleboard, and ventured out to a frozen mass. “These spaces were so mysterious and so interesting,” the artist says. “I derived an enormous amount of inspiration from going out into these ethereal spots.” After taking some drone photos of the areas, he began working, spraying the contours of a cheek or lip onto the icy matter.
Because many of his works are destined to melt and be reabsorbed, Popa opts for natural materials like white chalk from the Champagne region, ochres from France and Italy, and powdered charcoal he makes himself—the latter also plays a small role in purifying the water, leaving it cleaner than the artist found it. Most pieces take between three and six hours to complete, and his work time is dependent on the weather, temperature, and condition of the sea. “The charcoal will sink into the ice and disappear from a very dark shade to a medium shade, so it has to be created very quickly and documented. No to mention the work on the ice will just crack and drift away completely, or the next day it will snow and be completely covered,” he says. “I’m really battling the elements.”
Popa embraces this cyclical process and the lack of control over the fate of his works, which he preserves only through stunning aerial photos. Broadly reflecting themes of existence and time, some of his murals, like “Prometheus” and “Remnants of the Past,” also emphasize shifts in aesthetic impulses. Mimicking Greek sculptures, the works appear “washed up on shore,” drawing connections between antiquity and today and the differences in how we perceive beauty.
Popa will release a new limited-edition print next month, and you can follow that release on his site and Instagram. (via Yatzer)
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