“SPACES” – TALES OF THE SEA ON THE CANVAS OF MIRCEA POPITIU by R. NIRAM

Blue. Green. White. Flowing traces of paint on the canvas, fluid lines, energetic strokes, sudden splashes of blue- whitish paint which are so strong that they almost create an
auditive effect. The sound of the waves, crashing into an obstacle, the wind howling in the distance. Loneliness and wilderness: the sea.

Mircea Popitiu

Mircea Popitiu

These lines define the artistic creation of a man, long-trained in taming the ferocity of the aves. The ex-marine commander Mircea Popitiu finally bid his farewell to his more than 20-years carrier, and embraced the canvas and brushes for good.

However, just as in the old tales of the sea, the former sea-wolf cannot escape his first love, which comes back to haunt him, each time he lays his hand on a brush, forcing him, strug- gling with him, until he gives in, and the subdued canvas takes the form of yet another aquatic episode.

Men´s fascination with the sea is ancient, they have tried to conquer it, they have lost their lives to it, they have written about it, painted it, loved it. The dangers of the sea have often been the subject of art; an opportunity for high drama or maudlin sentiment. Artists such as Courbet, Whistler and O’Connor were as interested in the making of seascapes as they were in their meaning. Their seascapes have no human element; their subject is reduced to sky, sea and shore, their self-imposed challenge to evoke from these almost abstract elements the immediacy of a crashing wave, the momentary effects of the weather, and the immensity and eternity of the sea itself.

Abstract strokes of the brush and the total absence of the human element characterize Mircea Popitiu’s 2005 individual exhibition entitled “Spaces,” which took place (where else?) at the Romanian Marine Museum in the ancient port of Tomis, by the Black Sea. What strikes us at first sight is the man himself: a strong physical appearance, a long ascetic beard on a well tanned and harsh-shaped face. A simple, strong man used to the wind and the sun, to the life outdoors, hardly inclined to a life of meditation and artistic quests. His paint- ings appear as a strange effort to put together these two conflicting worlds and the tension which rises out of this attempt is obvious. As the artist himself admits, although he has adopted several techniques, he mostly likes to work with the painting knife, as it lets him express his strength and gives him the freedom he needs.

Mircea Popitiu never hides his fascination with sea and with its beauty, and confesses that, once a man has been taken in by its charm, his soul is changed forever. More than painting seascapes, he paints feelings: freedom, power, emotions, the intimate states of the soul of someone used to silent contemplation. “The colours and the materials offer me the possibility of expressing and, in a way, of giving back the feelings that I had at a given time”, he says.

The paintings belonging to this cycle offer us a rare insight into the marine universe as perceived by a man who actually lived in it. As Alice Dinulescu, director of UAP, Constanta, characterized him, Mircea Popitiu is a “creator who comes from the marine universe, which is governed by harsh, difficult laws, but at the same time haunted by poetry”.

The sea may be one of the places which most urges people to meditate and to feel, to create, to interrogate. In a love letter to his beloved Veronica, the poet Mihai Eminescu described his first en- counter with the sea as “the feeling of infinity in continuous movement”.

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