The giant talent of South African Artist Daniel Popper.

by | Mar 3, 2022 | Art, CSA Celebrates, Culture, Design, Entertainment, Events and Competitions, In Conversation, Interviews, Music, Talent

  • Artist from Cape Town South Africa owns public spaces on global stage.
  • A giant talent creating giant sculptures.
  • Festival King: USA, Portugal, Australia, South Africa.
  • A bridge between Art and Technology

Daniel Popper is a contemporary art-hero from Cape Town South Africa – and if you haven’t heard of him before now, this is a good time to be in the know. A multidisciplinary artist known globally for his larger-than-life sculptures, and spectacular public art installations, Daniel has an international footprint creating an array of sculptures, installations, and stages from the Tankwa to Tulum.

He specializes in interactive art, public art, stage design, installation art, and interior design. Daniel is most acclaimed for his massive public art installations at top festivals like the Electric Forest festival in the USA, Boom Festival in Portugal and Rainbow Serpent festival in Australia, as well as Afrikaburn in the Tankwa Karoo in South Africa.

Many of his projects include collaborations with other artists, technicians, and artisans to incorporate electronic music, LED lighting, and projection mapping as key components. Daniel creates both temporary and permanent work in public spaces.

Daniel is an excellent example of African creatives working prolifically on the global stage, delighting both art-inclined and general audiences. The Wire powered by CSA unpacks his art making process.

The WIRE: Are there any elements from your childhood or days as an art student that still inform your art making process?

Daniel Popper: I have always loved and been inspired by art, both through my childhood and art student days… and this hasn’t changed. The skills that have really crossed over into the work I do now are my life drawing and figure drawing. I used both in my painting work, and now use them heavily in the process of creating the sculptural work I do today.

TW: The immensity of the scale that your sculptures are rendered in give the works gravitas. Have you always intended to work on such a large scale?

DP: “Always” is such a strange term, as I never envisioned that I would be working at such a grand scale. Originally, after graduating from art school, I imagined I would be working in oil paints on canvas. Then after attending my first Afrikaburn Festival in 2007, I started to experiment in sculptural work. This period of trial and curiosity continued for numerous years and, in 2013, I created ‘Reflections’, a piece for Afrikaburn, which was the first work I attempted at scale. It was from this moment on that I realised I loved the entire process of designing and building BIG. The web of collaborations required to bring something of that scale into existence, combined with the sense of awe the final work creates was something I wanted to continue creating and experimenting with.

TW:  Many of the grand pieces featured at music festivals and garden sites have a mythology building quality, as if they are remnants from another advanced culture. What is the inspiration for this exoticism?

DP: I have always been influenced by festival and psychedelic art and artists, combined with traditional ideas used in shamanic plant medicines. This certainly creates a foundation and can be seen as the inspiration in my work. 

TW: Describe your art making process.

DP: One of my favourite quotes, is by Pablo Picasso, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” For me the creative process goes hand in hand with sitting down and doing the work. Often it can start with just a small idea, without an end point or story in mind, but as you work on it, and develop it, so you then find the story or inspiration that takes you onwards to the final piece. I typically start with sketch work, which then leads on to the 3D modelling process. After that I work closely with structural designers to see how we can bring the vision to life in the real world. The entire process can take from 6-8 months to reach a completed work.

TW: If you had an open budget, what would be your dream project to execute?

DP: My dream would be to build my own sculpture park, where I get to create an interactive environment where I have complete control of the visitor experience; integrating my work specifically designed for that landscape and environment.

TW: Is there anything exciting we can look forward to seeing in 2022

DP: We are currently working on a variety of projects for installation across the world. From temporary and permanent installations in Brazil, to Mexico, Indonesia, Cyprus, and the USA. Though we try not to talk too much about our future projects until they are installed, one that I am quite excited about is the expansion of the exhibition Human + Nature exhibition at The Morton Arboretum near Chicago, which will be on display till 2023. You’ll just have to wait to learn more!

C.S.A.’s monthly cultural portal, The WIRE connects the dots of culture. With concise stories, many with video content, take a premium dive into the world of African entertainment & cultural fluidity. It’s one thing to be hip to what’s happening but it is another to know why.

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