Light, space, memory and drawing comes together in the work of Mika Utzon Popov, as the artist tells Alicia Sciberras.
In Indesign #49, coming out in May, we look at Mika Utzon Popov’s bird-inspired art installation on the façade of the former Hampton Court Hotel in Sydney’s King Cross. But first, here we catch up with the artist to find out about his recent projects, inspiration and design philosophy.
When did you decide to become an artist?
It was never really a choice, more of a realisation. I loved working with architecture and design but wanted more freedom (control) in my process and so followed drawing.
Mika Utzon Popov’s studio
Which medium do you identify with most? Are you a painter, sculptor, installation artist, or performer?
I have always seen myself as a drawing artist with an emotional sensibility for space. At the moment I have been given some precious opportunities to work in three dimensions and it allows me a wonderful extension into other mediums.
Explain what you do in one sentence.
I create visual responses to the world around me.
Where did you complete your studies and what is your background?
I finished my formal art training at the National Art School here in Sydney in ’95 after a brief but crucial mentorship by artist Tim Storrier in 1989.
I grew up in Denmark and travelled between Australia and Spain with family; still do. With a family deeply entrenched in art and architecture, I spent many years working as a model builder and helped produce large scale art commissions which taught me a great deal about scale and process.
Which artists inspire you and how do they inform your practice?
Miquel Barceló from Mallorca. His way of working transforms art into an expression of raw, natural power. I like to reduce drawing to the simple act of putting down a mark. Also, my grandfather, Jørn Utzon, who always allowed the site and the project to dictate the final form.
Each work we dedicate ourselves to is unique. If we remain open to this and to ourselves, we will find something new to move us forward in everything we do. I invariably return to Picasso for his energy as a creative spirit.
Has your practice developed over a period of time or are you still working with similar themes?
I would like to think it has developed for fear of repeating myself too much but there are themes, and materials, which return in my language. Light, space, memory, and drawing all come together in different forms in different works.
Is there any symbolism in the imagery of the birds in this [Kings Cross] installation?
Birds were used to create a feeling of movement and this movement upward, towards light, becomes a symbolic sense of freedom.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a large installation for a church community centre in a suburb of Barcelona. The work will incorporate both textile and tiles to form a dialogue between floating levels in the building.
Parallel to that I am working on two upcoming exhibitions of drawings and paintings. I am also developing a series of design products with my cousin and architect Jeppe Utzon, where we fuse our creative processes into a new language.
What are your main intentions that you hope to achieve through your work?
It is to communicate something which produces a response, which the viewer may complete themselves.
Do you identify as an Australian artist or is your practice more global?
I think I am a product of my surroundings and the movement between those surroundings.
Read more about Mika Utzon Popov’s First Movement in Indesign #49, on sale 17 May
Mika Utzon Popov