David Popa grew up influenced by his father Albert Popa, an artist from the 1980s New York graffiti scene. Albert’s mentorship led him to experiment with the free-spirited nature of “street art” and muralism, and take it in the direction of still life and portraiture. During college, both interests merged as Popa painted large-scale mural portraits. By exploring the possibilities of street art, he learned valuable lessons about the physicality of such a practice and the temporary nature of his creations. At age 21, Popa moved to Finland, where he currently resides today, surrounded by sumptuous Scandinavian nature, shifting from urban walls to organic surfaces.
In 2017-18, Popa created his first “ephemeral earth frescos” on stone and other raw and wild surfaces. He portrays human life immersed in nature. Unable to use his usual tools, Popa perfected a technique which was both adhesive to, and respectful of, the environment he was working in. After years of experimentation, he now works with earth pigments, such as charcoal, chalk, and water. Inspired by natural minerals used in prehistoric cave drawings and geoglyphs, Popa describes himself as a “paleo-painter” – continuing the tradition.
The Finish archipelagoes, as well as the landscapes of Norway, Greece, France, and the USA , are his canvas. As his work is situated in nature, it is dependent on weather conditions, such as light or water exposure, meaning his creations are always short-lived; they fade from after a few minutes to a couple of months. Popa documents his pieces by collaborating with the elements—sea, wind and ice. This is both an exhilarating pursuit and a humbling experience for Popa. Using drone technology, videography, and photography, he records his nature-blending paintings from above. A truly physical endeavour, Popa’s remaining work takes the form of films, sharing narratives on the mystery of life and our urgent need to care for our planet.
His research process can be long and meticulous — from finding the location, creating the mock-up, to the realisation of the project – with the artist describing his practice as an act of “unearthing”; that art is emerging from the ground. Highlighting our connection to nature and igniting our sense of spirituality, Popa asks: where do we come from and what are we doing on earth? At the intersection of Land art and Earth murals, he imagines his work as an expression of life and questions our place and role in our ecosystem.
Follow David Popa on Instagram@davidpopaart