color will kind of go outside the border. All of those different approaches come about in my painting. In more indirect ways, I paint as if it were a sculpture because
there is depth to the sound that I am listening to. If I am listening to a quartet, you can hear all of the sounds at once. Or you can interplay with the bass in the back
followed by the drums that come forward to the saxophonist to the trumpeter to the piano. All of those things move back and forth as you are listening to it in your
ear, but also in my eye. I’m trying to convey that as well. Instead of painting on a flat surface, I’m carving it out like a slab of clay so you can play with the depth that
While Cubism allows Chapman to paint with depth to depict the depth and heaviness of the notes he is hearing, it is jazz that inspires him as an artist, its sense of
improvisation and freedom, an art form that allows him to be who he is as an artist without having to follow the prescriptions of an “expert.”
“A lot of my work too and what I like to convey with kids is their own individual style,” Chapman said. “If you look at my work here, there are a few different takes on
painting. It allows for one to adapt their own style and not be chained to it, to allow for things to be different, to not always having your signature looking the same
way or for a kid to expect what they are drawing to look exactly what it is supposed to. Eliminating those words ‘supposed to’ is the key and kids naturally have that.
That’s the beautiful thing about working with them. They just start doing it and they shouldn’t care what it looks like as long as they are true to it. You’ll hear a certain
jazz standard sounding a certain way by Duke Ellington and it will sound completely different by Thelonious Monk. But you can tell it is the same tune. But they
augment it a certain way. Their voicings are in there. It’s the same thing as individuals walking and talking. Everyone walks, but they don’t walk the same. They don’
t all talk the same. They all play the same instrument, but they all have a different sound. That’s another mind-blowing thing about this. After I got into music, I could
tell the difference between Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington or John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. I didn’t think you could because they were playing the same kind
In Jazz Piano Modern, Chapman strives to depict the texture and the depth of the music itself without depicting a particular jazz musician per se even if he was
listening to a particular jazz artist at the time.
“Jazz Piano Modern is based on carving out on a clay slab geometrically, but at the same time in this, I’m nodding to sculpture again,” Chapman said. “It might be
raised and three-dimensional and it will come out in two ways again. It looks like it might be a sculpted piece, like a painting of a still life of a sculpture. There are
certain groves in the painting that look like they are carved in. Most lines are of the same width, so maybe it’s an idea that I have a certain tool that creates the line
work. So carve in and implement like a stylus and you can leave the stylus in there. Once again, it’s just allowing certain shapes to resemble something, but not
necessarily represented actually, so it gives the viewer the idea of where I am coming from and the idea of what it might be, not necessarily right in your face. That’s
another thing about jazz music. They have a story to tell and it’s their own. But it leaves you without words to try to figure it out yourself. But the emotion is going to
be there. The words aren’t. That has allowed me to really take it seriously as far as not just a relaxing background music. If you are paying attention, you start
investigating it. And in this matter, I’m investigating form. In Jazz Piano Modern, it’s bringing that idea out, the investigation of form.”
Chapman’s Duo Mode is an homage to two jazz greats.
“Duo Mode depicts Coltrane and Monk collaborating in the late 1950s,” Chapman said. “They collaborated at the Five Spot New York Café. They had a couple of
concerts. As I have I had read, they learned a lot from one another. They are two of the bigger influences in my work. Putting the two of them together, there is
cohesion there. They are connected. And if you look at the painting, you’ll see where Coltrane’s back is in the background, yet the line of his back is going to come
through to his right arm and connecting with it as is Coltrane’s left leg becomes a part of Monk’s leg. Without trying to be too cliché, the sound that they are creating
becomes one sound. And I think it leads the viewer to investigate the lines as much as I investigated the sound and the form itself. In that one, I shared pretty well
what the importance of the music is and the importance of their collaboration, how important it was to each of them artistically.”
Monk Red Wall — Thelonious Monk is one of Chapman’s favorite jazz artists — came from a different inspiration.
“Monk Red Wall, I remember drawing this one on a piece of scratch paper talking on the phone,” Chapman recalled. “I did this in 2004. It just started as one
continual pen line, almost drawing cursively. When I brought it to canvas, it was hard to keep that initial inspiration, especially from a pen to a brush. You have to
work and refine each line. I still grasped that idea in the final product, trying to follow a line and seeing where it took me. You can add colors to it as opposed to the
initial sketches. The color adds a lot more to it. It’s another approach.”
Chapman’s passion for jazz and his artistic expression are fused in his Cubist style. Chapman is an improvisationist in expressing jazz music his way and in the
way that it speaks to his artistic heart.
Martel Chapman’s Portraits of Jazz can be viewed at the Waypoint Public House, 320 W Broadway, during normal business hours.