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ichael Chapman's out\,vard pel'sona is not unlike his compositions. On this day he is dresed headto-toe in a faded pale mossy green, similar to the muted colors of his paintings. His clothes ar-e clean and simple. He wears a well-washed tee shirt just a hint lighter than his cotton pants.They have the appearance ofjust having been taken out of the dryer- His buzz cut looks liesh and is obviously easy to care for. His paintings too have simple lines.They are clear and balanced compositions that look as if great care were taken to construct them.The realiry he chooses to explore is surleal yet highly sry1ized and controlled. There are no drips ofpaint on his tennis shoes, ol dirt under his fingernails. His image creates an arypical portrait of an arristChapman rvon't be found s'earing berets ol an overs'ized disheveled suit. Althor-rgh Chapn-ran did spend time overseas u'hile ser-ving in Conversation in the Sun 1994

the r-nilitan-, nou' he chooses to sdck close to home, exploring the ever-changing vu'or1d through his art. He lives in Orange Counn- in a one-bedroom apartment not too far from where he gre\v up and he paints most of the day. When he takes a bleak. he likes to lide his bike along the beach, soaking in the sun and rvatching people. His observations: the light at dillerent times of day; the sand; the sidewalks; the

buildings-it

all becomes foddel for his work.

Chapman comes across as being a little uncomfortable when talking about his paintings. He enjoys creating and exploring the different shapes that construct our environment, but rvhether or not his paintings have an underlying therre, he says with a modest shrug, that he hasn't given it much thought. He's content with let-

ting viewers interpret the wolk on their own terms.

Ocean Terrace Apartments 2001

Chapman enjoys studying shapes. He has created a familiar visual vocabulary for his audience. Chapman's work has an almost cartoon-like appearance to it, and he uses these same stylized shapes over and over again. Many of these shapes seem to harken back to a time long gone, but exactly when is unclear and this is the way Chapman wants it.

"l

14

BRNTWD

am not trying to re-create a certain time or place," he

says.


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But hc does want to create a rr-rood. His s111ooth aerodynamic for examplc cortinually reappear. But the1, are not of any particulal n-rakc ol model.These cars appear to be an amalgamation of several makes and models, which Chapman has fused together to cars

Yet at the same time, the Hoppel painting and collee table are consistent rvith the room'.s decor and therefore arc a part of r.r,hat supposed to be real. Chapman presents us

with

is

a conflict bcnl.een

leal and imaginary elements.The Hopper painting combined r,vith

help aid his sr,rrreal and nostalgic images. Thc surreal and 1one1y in-rages portrayed by Chapman strongly rcsemble Edward Hopperi rvork.This fact is not lost on Chapnran. Not only does he cite Hopper as the artist that has 111ost intluenced his rvork, br-rt he has incorporated Hopper images

the contrasting viewpoints play on the clich6 of cntering another' world by looking at a painting, or through a r'vindorv, writes Lynne Moss, senior edttor o{ Atnericar ,4rri,rt. "This kind of duaiiry and ambiguiq. is integml to Chapman! body of work," Moss says.

in

ate "an intentional presentation

severai

ofhis paintings, including

Firewatcher.

In Chapman's Firewatclrcr, he actually incorporates a Hopper painting into his composition Ciilie Slrctu. Chapman does not distort Hopper's image, he presents it as part of the scene set before the viewer, r,vhose olientation is fiom the outside.The viewel is standing outside in the night air, looking through a window.This personal vantage point heightens the uneasy sense ofscaie for the vicrver-.The figures in the Firctuatclter, the fire trucks, and building

in the foreground,

are

in miniatur-e, suggesting they belong to the

vierver's imagination; like children's toys.

Particularly ellective in this case, the contrasting viervpointr creto evoke a certain emotion;' Chapman says of Fireuatcfier, aware of the sensc of isolation exuding fiom the wor-k. 'With Chapman's concern for balance and hinted narrativcs in hil work, he hopes art patlons will place thenxelves in the pictur-c and derive their own lneaning fi-om what they observe. Chapman's intentional jr,rxtaposition of difll^erent shapcs and planes and geometries raises questions regarding rvhat is inside thc picture plane and what is outside the plane. Moss writes that Chapman'.s desire to altcr reality is pefcctly

IVARCH / APRIL 2OO2

15


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The Firewatcher 1999

vision of the world attracts an immedi-

illustrated in the The Firewatclru,which is so bound to this idea that the title itself directly addresses the viewer. Not only are we watching a fire but the woman in the Hopper painting is also watching the fire.The painting, Gillie Show, in its essence is about voyeurism.This painting is about observation and what we Per-

says. Chapman's personal

ceive is real and not.

have paid

This composition also creates a sense of isolation. Contrasting the real and the imaginary makes the viewer take part voveuristicaliy in the conflict. Even in his paintings, which place every image withrn the same

ten it right.'When I look at his paintings the shadows are perfect." Over the past nine years, Chapman's themes and subjects beach scenes, inteliors, ciry streets, trees and parks, and nocturnes have become incleasinglv more complex in their content and

as tn Conuersation h the Sur, a mood is conjured by the light and the placement of objects.'When looking at these paintings, one cant help but imagine that Chapman was creating with a

composition, Rogers sa1rs. And people are beginning to take notice. Not only is his work in many private collections across the country he has had several shows in NewYork and this spring will be having a shorv in London. But despite his increasing notoriery he continues to ride his bike and imbue his art with his famfiar shapes, fire hydrants, trees, lamp

plane, such

story in mind.

But despite this qualiry Chapman insists that he does not to his work. Again, he says, "I'm interested in shapes." Terrance Rogers, ofTerrence Rogers Fine Art gallery in Santa Monica, has been handling most of Chapman's work for the last assign specific narratives

tlvelve years. From Rogers first encounter with Chapman, he found him to be an artist of "tremendous curiosiry dedication and talent," he

16 BRNTWD

ate response."It's Chapmani keen sense of observation and honesty

in his r,vork that is attractive to many and rnakes him

ful," Rogers

"His

years taking walks and

ofl'Rogers

posts, and cars. His

"I

success-

says.

says.

riding his bike along the beach has got-

"He understands the light. He

work remains honest, genuine and earnest.

resoive the same ideas

in different ways," Chapman

says.

"My

nrind keeps working on them without my being conscious of it. It's almost as if it's a matter of time before I will come up with a final solutionl' ffi

-

Dawnya Pring


Michael Chapman, BRNTWD Magazine April 2002