Reverse engineering

IF you happen to find yourself in Crown Casino staring at some unusually aesthetic CCTV cameras, it’s no accident; it’s just the artsy side of techno-whiz Clayton Popa.

The up-and-coming artist’s day job sees him in charge of the casino’s cameras, and he says while his artistic flair is somewhat limited by the positioning of gambling tables, “on the odd occasion we do try to make the cameras symmetrical”.

Popa was always a bit of a smarty at school, studying electronics and technical drawing, and his destiny seemed to be in engineering (he even started a degree), but he’d been drawing comics and tribal designs as a kid and even when working as a technical officer on cruise ships he’d use a lot of his down time copying what he was seeing around him.

• Street Melody by Clayton Popa, who says high-flow acrylics have allowed him to capture his emotions on canvas. Photos supplied

A few years later some mental health issues forced him to rethink his life.

“I went through a pretty bad time, and I started getting into my spiritual side, which got me more into painting and trying out other techniques,” he says.

While listening to solfeggio music, which is based on frequencies said to be used in ancient sacred rituals, he found that he could channel his higher self into his art.

Discovering high-flow acrylics allowed him to capture his emotions on the canvas Jackson Pollock-style, which  caught the attention of Peter Hesketh, who’s just opened a new gallery in Northbridge for emerging artists.

WOM — Word of Mouth was almost destined to be a storage space for Hesketh’s retro-fave shop Sgt Peppers Vintage and Vinyl Collective next door until Popa walked in with some samples of his art.

Hesketh says he was so impressed with the abstracts he bought one on the spot. As he chatted with the young artist he was also taken by his passion and attitude, and the idea for a pop-up gallery was born.

• Versatility is one of the strengths of Popa’s work.

“I used to be involved in art galleries a long time ago, so I thought why not turn it into a space to give young artists a place to hang their work; there’s very little opportunity for them at the moment,” Hesketh says.

He says the future of the mini gallery hangs on its success, but after opening Popa’s exhibition Intimacy last weekend they’ve already sold a couple of paintings.

Hesketh believes the young artist is on the verge of breaking through: “He could be anywhere in 10 years’ time.”

One of the strengths of Popa’s work is his versatility; despite his lack of artistic training, he pulls off portraits, landscapes, impressionism or abstracts, saying that once he’s seen something it sticks in his mind.

“At one gallery where I had an exhibition in Leederville — Ink Remedy — people were asking about how many artists they had on show, but there was only one,” he says proudly.

Popa says he’s got big ambitions, not only for his own art, but for other up-and-comers. He hopes one day to create a one-stop artists’ shop where potential buyers can browse for commissioned works in any style that catches their eye. He’d also like to turn the idea of exhibitions on their head, so viewers enjoy more of an experience than just wandering around sipping a glass of wine at the opening.

by Steve Grant

WOM—Word of Mouth
Newcastle Street, Northbridge

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