Daniel’s artwork ‘pops’ around the globe

6 Jul 22 | Lifestyle, Profiles

Driven by an inherent need and pure passion to create breath-taking artwork and sculptures, Johannesburg-born multi-disciplinary artist Daniel Popper continues to make a name for himself around the globe, by Allison Cooper.

Not only has Daniel worked with some of the world’s biggest art, design and music festival organisers, including AfrikaBurn (South Africa), Boom Festival (Portugal), Electric Daisy Carnival and Electric Forest Festival (USA), but he also creates installations for clients, such as private property developers and public institutions.

He has permanent public works in Florida, Croatia and California, and since 2001 has had an exhibition of five works called Human+Nature in the Morton Arboretum in Chicago, Illinois. This exhibition runs until 2023.

While Daniel views Cape Town as his home, he spends around six months a year in various places in the USA and also has a home in Colorado.

“The USA is a vast, interesting, eclectic country, with each city and state having a complete character of its own. As with everything, it has its ups and downs, but it also constantly offers up new opportunities and experiences. If nothing else, it’s never dull,” says Daniel, who obtained his fine arts degree from the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art.

The married father of two, who has always been interested in art, says he specialised in oil painting after his studies.

“While I have always, at the very least, tried to survive as an artist, sometimes this deviated into stage design, interior design for clubs and other more commercial applications of my creativity.” It was while attending the first AfrikaBurn Festival that he started experimenting with sculpture, which led him to the ‘festival scene’.

“Within this space, I created large-scale installation pieces and stage design,” says Daniel, who opened his own studio in 2016.

As his work became better known and demand for it grew, he started creating work in public art spaces and private property markets, and he moved from using materials more suited to temporary pieces to those more suited to permanent work. One of these materials, glass fibre reinforced concrete (GFRC), was the inspiration behind his Human+Nature exhibition.

Of the five works in the exhibition, Hallow, Basilica, Heartwood and Umi are all made primarily from GFRC, while Sentient is primarily made from wood and fibreglass.

The inspiration for Human+Nature was drawn from people’s relationships with nature, and how they connect to it. “It’s all about what it takes for us to open up to natural spaces and the world around us,” says Daniel.

He experimented with GFRC until it looked as close to wood as possible, ensuring that the pieces have the warmth that wood exudes. On the upside, this also enables them to withstand Chicago’s harsh weather for the duration of the exhibition.

“From the initial design sketches to the final work took about eight months, while the actual installation of all the work took almost two months. Much of this was due to shipping problems as a result of Covid-19,” says Daniel.

As for the future, Daniel plans to continue to create art, while hoping to move increasingly into public space work. “I want to constantly experiment with materials and ideas, and to always find new ways to make that work by both connecting with myself and the viewer who comes across it.”

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