Popay - profile

Popay /   Juan Pablo de Ayguavives

Spain 1971

Street Art, Graffiti


Juan Pablo de Ayguavives
October 23, 2016

Popay is a graffiti writer, painter and illustrator, living and working in Paris. Born in 1971 in Barcelona as the son of an architect, Popay grew up in Paris and started drawing comics at a very young age before transposing his art onto the streets in 1986 and discovering the art of graffiti writing with KISTER in 1987. Popay was a member of several crews like MST, CWA, THC, PCP, P2B, TEH, AAA, OOO and GM. Through what he himself has once called “the art school of the streets”, he first developed different lettering including dripping, melting, unifying forms and figurative elements, like big human heads and weird characters. In his studio, he was sketching, drawing and painting on paper and canvas using pen, ink, pencil, spraycan, airbrush and acrylic paint. While continuing to paint, he increasingly began to receive commissions for illustrations. His research of artistic expression guided him to produce digital painting as well, wanting to print unlimited editions of images accessible to everyone. His early outstanding colorful figurative style inspired many other urban artists who still consider him as a major figure in French urban art.

Popay live in Italy 2013
Popay – Nu Feminin a chaussette sur Ville, 2015

Popay’s Influences

In addition to graffiti, the culture of comics and animated movies in France affected him as a child. The artist describes his art as heavily influenced by music too. The psychedelism of Jimi Hendrix and the techno sound of Spiral Tribe, for example, inspired him for the flow of the gesture while painting calligraphic work. Studying art history on his own, influences of medieval paintings, old master and classical paintings, Goya, African art, modern sculpture, Picasso, Lowbrow and la figuration libre with Combas, as well as by Swiss artist and designer H.R. Giger can be felt in POPAY’s various work.

The culture of comics and animated movies in France affected him as a child

Popay street art
Popay – detail of mural in Caserne de Reuilly, Paris, 2015

The Art of Popay

His artwork is diverse, generous, dense and intense. Despite an elaborated painting technique, his work stays spontaneous and emotional, the gesture being essential to the artist. The artist mixes realism and fantasy and creates disorienting, chaotic scenes, with narrative to be read and many details to be discovered in most of his works. His universe invites us in an organic jungle of colors and biomorphic volumes, populated by strange creatures, mostly stemming from dark fairy tales. His human, big-headed figures with small limbs are expressive and disturbing. His imagined scenes are disconcerting, placing life of the physical as well as the social body in the focus of his work. The painter is using dark and accented rings, creating sculptural volumes in a range of dense and powerful colors – dominated by blue, green, red, orange and purple, his scenes end up in luxuriant, seemingly screaming combinations. POPAY’s scenes are challenging for the viewer, the mind needing some time to decode the sense of the pictures in order to discover all the elements and decrypt every detail.

His world is populated by strange creatures, mostly stemming from dark fairy tales

Popay street art in france europe
Popay – Oye, 130x195cm, 2013, photo courtesy of Galerie Celal

Between Abstraction and Figuration

In some of his works, he dissolves figurative forms, becoming nearly abstract, creating accumulations of detailed simple biomorphic elements that seem to be alive and in movement. Popay created a freestyle biomechanical style in graffiti writing, inspired by JonOne, and from there he developed what he calls a bio-vegetal style on walls or canvases, without perspective, like painted bas-reliefs of nature or explosions or perhaps both. Popay is working like a colorist in his paintings, he works directly with paint most of the time, creating images from centre to edge, growing from inside to outside through a process of transformation. Sometimes, he archives different stages of his work in progress though photographs that capture moments of transformation and spontaneous creation. His first artistical practices as a child, sketching and drawing, have always been present in his research of new expressions, culminating in original drawings, prints and illustrations as an important part of his artistic production.

Popay new street art pictures 2016
Popay – artwork, photo courtesy of Galerie Celal

The Power of Popay

The power of Popay’s work doesn’t leave the viewer indifferent. His work isn’t there to please but to shake things up. The disturbing and mysterious character of his work hides the moving sensitivity of the artist who is expressing a personal, imaginative vision of the world through his art. Rebelling against human society, social injustice, misery, lies and human mediocrity, some of his figurative works remind us of the close proximity of opposites, such as big and small, beauty and ugliness, pleasant and unpleasantness, reason and madness, happiness and sadness… Popay always surprises with uncommon works, the provocative, expressive legacy of his body of work spanning over 30 years makes him an outstanding artist and one of the inescapable figures of French urban art. Present in galleries, at auctions, invited to festivals, group shows, residencies, art fairs, collaborative work, featured in books and magazines, his work belongs in every important, contemporary urban art collection.

Text by Katia Hermann, art historian & independent curator

Featured image: Popay – work in progress
All photo credits of the artist

YearExhibition TitleMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016Baraka - Popay, Bault and Max TetarGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2016Head HuntersBomma Galerie, Paris, FRSolo
2016Le Grand 8 De L'Art UrbainLa Reserve Malakoff, Paris, FRGroup
2016Popay Y Pelucas, Le Graffiti FantastiqueGreen Flowers Art Gallery, Boulogne, Paris, FRGroup
2015En MasseFestival Chromatic, Cite de la mode, Paris, FRGroup
2015Sur Les Murs, Credit Municipal De Paris With, Le M.U.RParis, FRGroup
2015L'Eveil Du PrintempsGoutte d'Or, Paris, FRGroup
2014Urban LegendsMacro, Roma, ITGroup
2014Villa OcupadaNantes, FRGroup
2014Traits D UnionsMontreuil, FRGroup
2014Lasco ProjectPalais de Tokyo, Paris, FRGroup
2014L'Art Du FroidGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2014RedbullGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
201420AnosGalerie Montana, Barcelone, ESGroup
2014United Dead ArtistsGalerie Centrale, Liège, BelgiqueGroup
2013FiguresGalerie Association d'idees, Marseille, FRSolo
2013ExtensionsGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2013Urban BrainGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2013Urban Art BiennaleWeltkulturerbe Völkinger Hütte, DEGroup
2013Urban Walk Galerie Voskel, Paris, FRGroup
2013Les Bras CassesConfluences, FRGroup
2013Traits D UnionsMontreuil, FRGroup
2013FiguresGalerie Association d’ Idees, Marseille, FRGroup
2013Popay’N Co, Curator of a group showEspace Favela Chic, Paris, FRGroup
2013Mia, Group Show About The Mia Chair By Jean NouvelRBC Design, Montpellier, FRGroup
2012CagibiGalerie GAGIBI, Lille, FRSolo
2012Beasts & FlowersGalerie Celal, Paris, FRSolo
2012AgradationGalerie Le Monte-en-l'air, Paris, FRSolo
2012Beasts & FlowersGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2012AgradationGalerie Le Monte-en-l'air, Paris, FRGroup
2012AgradationGalerie Yaralt, editions Piktur, Rouen, FRGroup
2012Sur PapierGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2012Traits D'UnionsMontreuil, FRGroup
2011AgradationGalerie YARALT, Rouen, FRSolo
2011Summer Graffiti ShowGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2011Dessins. 2/2011Galerie Estace, Paris, FRGroup
2011Hors Les Murs (Part Ii) Le cabinet d'amateur, Paris, FRGroup
2011La French Touche, Group Show with GmGalerie Sergent Paper, Paris, FRGroup
2011RockGalerie Voskel, Paris, FRGroup
2011UnknownGalerie Cabinet d ‘Amateur, Paris, FRGroup
2011GraffitiGalerie Brigitte Argiemme, Monaco, FRGroup
2011Ojos Y Ojas Mural, 15X7M, Nobulo, Festival AsaltoSarragosse, ESGroup
2010PopayGalerie Montana, Barcelona, ESSolo
2010Beyond GraffitiGalerie Celal, Paris, FRGroup
2010Urban ActivityCentre Culturel des Lilas, Paris, FRGroup
2010Le Mur, with Speedy Graphito,3 Years AnniversaryCarre du Temple, Paris, FRGroup
2010Festival ArtaqAbbaye de la Ronseray, Angers, FRGroup
2010Group Show For ElegangzARTEUM, CNIT, la Defense, FRGroup
2010Duo Show with NatyveGalerie La Place Forte, Paris, FRGroup
2009PopayTrain station of Herne, GERSolo
2009Martin Motch & PopayGalerie La Suite, Paris, FRGroup
2009Tag(Collection Gallizia), Grand Palais, ParisGroup
2009La Nuit Du Street Art, Exhibition and PerformanceGalerie Chybulski, Ville sur Jarnioux, Rhône Alpes, FRGroup
2009Group Show GmMusee de la Calligraphie, Fribourg, SuisseGroup
2009Group Show GmGalerie L’Issue, Parie, FRGroup
2008Rose Gallery, Group Show with Comestible ArtStudio 55, Paris, FRGroup
2008UnknownGalerie Estace et Galerie Studio55Group
2008M.U.R.Galerie JL Beaubourg, Paris, FRGroup
2008GlastnotdeadNantes, FRGroup
2008Installation CollectiveMaison de l'Architecture, Paris, FRGroup
2008UnknownGalerie Lafriche, Paris, FRGroup
2008Belles ImagesGalerie Estace, Paris, FRGroup
2007PopayGalerie Montana, Sevilla, ESSolo
2007Kosmopolite 2007 Mediatheque de Bagnolet, Bagnolet, FRSolo
2007Paperwork 8X3M, M.U.R. De OberkampfParis, FRGroup
2007PanParis, FRGroup
2006Leopard CafeParis, FRSolo
2006PopayGalerie Librairie Le Monte en l’air, Paris, FRSolo
2006Friche Et Nous La PaixParis, FRGroup
2006GmGalerie Chappe, Paris, FRGroup
2006Aux Arts Citoyens, Expo-Off, Speedy GraphitoHalles aux Blancs Manteaux, Paris, FRGroup
2006Hommage À A1/Sp23Salon de Montrouge, FRGroup
2006Mural L'Arbre Coeur, 4X5M, Ar Forge with L'Atlas, Speedy GraphitoParis, FRGroup
2006Mural and Jury Member For A Graffiti Comepetition Of ToulonToulon, FRGroup
2004Tous Ego, Exhibition and PerformanceGalerie Jean Attali, Ivry sur Seine, FRGroup
2003PopayGalerie Confluence, Paris, FRSolo
1997Documenta Off, Occupation and Mural In An Alternative SpaceKassel, DEGroup
1997Ssocapi, Collective Occupation of a Building Facing Musee PicassoParis, FRGroup
1996Pôle Πcollective squat Belleville, Paris, FRGroup
1996Paroles UrbainesLa Laiterie, Strasbourg, FRGroup
1994Berry Zebrecollective squat Belleville, Paris, FRGroup
1993Grande ArcheGrande Arche de la Defense, FRGroup
1992Bazart Des ArtsCafe Guanabara, Paris, FRSolo
1992Paris GraffitiGalerie Chapon, Paris, FRGroup
1992Dark and WildGalerie Jose, Paris, ParisGroup
1991Bombart 91Espace GRASLIN with CRDC of Nantes, Nantes, FRGroup
1990L’Envol7Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FRGroup