Martel Chapman’s paintings celebrating Nduduzo Makhathini‘a upcoming release ‘In The Spirit Of Ntu’ will be on display at an open house at the Waypoint Public House in Monona on May 26.
“I will be displaying for one night, seven pieces dedicated to Nduduzo Makhathini and his usual saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane,” Chapman tells Madison365. “Other jazz paintings will be up as well. I have a dozen or more jazz-themed works that have been part of an ongoing display.”
The event will be hosted by the Harlem Renaissance Museum, located at 1444 East Washington Avenue, which aims to tell the story of the rich artistic heritage of the Harlem Renaissance, one of America’s most creative movements. The museum offers works of visual art, live music, writing workshops and an artist in residence among other creative displays.
A jazz music lover and educator, Chapman gives a brand new life to jazz musicians with his artwork.
“The music is the source for me, and I’ve been fortunate to work with musicians that inspire me. I’ve done two covers from painted canvas for Brooklyn pianist Victor Gould, as well,” he says. “Nduduzo Makhathini’s music really resonates with me as in recent years I’ve started listening to Fela Kuti and African music.”
The visionary South African pianist, composer, improviser, and healer Nduduzo Makhathini is releasing his 10th studio album, In the Spirit of Ntu, which condenses the thematic, sonic, and conceptual notions explored over his catalog into a layered yet accessible 10-track album. Chapman drew paintings, like he’s done many times before with other artists, to honor Makhathini who then requested to use them for his new album on the newly imprinted Blue Note Africa label, a new label that will focus on African jazz artists.
“He’s using one of my paintings for the cover and the last three weeks he’s released video images of three other paintings to correspond with his other releases,” Chapman says. “So it’s very, very exciting for me. It’s surreal how something like this is happening.”
Chapman adds that he’s really excited because “this has really been a dream of mine.”
“I’ve had some album covers in the past but not to the extent that Nduduzo was using them and I just am so grateful for this opportunity to contribute to his music in the way that I’m able to,” he says. “So I figured it’d be kind of a neat thing on the eve of the full album release – May 27 – I’m going to have those pieces that he’s used on display for one night at Waypoint Public House.”
Chapman says that he has been drawing since he was a kid.
“I didn’t start to take it seriously until I started to listen to jazz seriously with John Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’ re-issue [in 1997] that really sparked my interest. I never heard a musician be called an artist before so that was something very interesting,” he remembers. “That Blue Note cover is something to look at, as well. It really lends itself to create some interest in seeing what that cover represents for the sound inside.
“I started to learn to paint jazz musicians for myself and started learning more about the music and musicians and other musicians, too,” Chapman adds. “When you read about a lot of these musicians’ careers, it always comes back to how they have to develop their own sound. And learning about that, I tried to kind of see what I could do with portraits to combine that idea into my own visual art, and take what jazz is as improvised music, and improvise forms in my work.”
Chapman developed a Cubism style where he produced complex compositions and delivered a musical atmosphere with his portraits.
“Because Cubism lends itself well to improvisation because you’re creating multiple views of the subject and the lines can indicate lines of demarcation, horizon line changes … and those lines also can indicate motion,” he says. “So all those things kind of combined together for me to have my own take of Cubism.”
Chapman says that he is really excited about the upcoming May 26 event at Waypoint Public House, hosted by the Harlem Renaissance Museum.
“For The Harlem Renaissance Museum – David Hart, Caitlin McGahan and myself and some others – the pandemic hit us a little bit but we’ve been able to do some shows and get some artists in and have had some musicians perform,” Chapman says. “We’re still doing things and we’re still trying to get this back and moving and I think this event will jumpstart us again.
“It’s gonna be fun to share what I’m doing and share the music that’s inspired me for a night. I’m looking very forward to it. I have seven pieces total that I haven’t displayed yet. It should be great.”
For more information about the event, Martel Chapman Paintings to South African Jazz Pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, click here.