There is something about cultural icons like David Bowie, Kurt Cobain or Jim Morrison that beckon us to hold them close to our hearts.
Most of these musical and artistic geniuses had one thing in common: independence; the desire to rebel and break out of the moulds that others had cast before them.
British artist Ed Chapman, who spends his time between the UK and his home in Álora, does exactly the opposite, capturing their essence and locking them into his soulful mosaics, each of which can be contemplated for hours.
It’s all in the eyes with these mosaics; they express the charisma, magic and (in some cases) sadness of the celebrities represented. The works are painstaking, taking various weeks to complete. Ed personally cuts all tiles and vinyl to his desired shape by hand, stacking the ultra thin vinyl in layers for an even finish.
Ed’s tiles are purchased in size L – measuring around 20cm2 – “I just break them up and sometimes, I get lucky and the pieces are just the right shape; at other times I have to cut away until I obtain the right piece.”
When asked how he came upon this fascinating art form, Ed answers that his interest in art as a whole, stems from way back. “Both my parents were trained in art school in Liverpool and they were always drawing, so I thought that was just natural, in the same way someone who grew up in a tennis family would naturally start playing the sport early.
We grew up with all the materials we needed – paints, easels… in fact, I still have my mother’s easel today and it’s at least 50 years old.”
The idea to create mosaic art, came a little later: “Around 20 years ago, my brother had a school project and I thought, ‘I’d like to have a go’. I made a portrait of Kurt Cobain using magazine paper instead of paint and I was quite pleased with the result.
It wasn’t perfect, but I grew fascinated by the medium – by the idea that you could make a recognisable subject from ordinary materials. I carried on producing works in paper for around four years, then started experimenting with tiles and other materials.”
Once Ed had honed his technique to perfection, he began to think commercially: “At that time nobody was selling portraits of icons. I started to do so in the late 1990s and by 2002, the interest in my art began to grow.” Today, Ed sells his work in Soho (London), and much of his work is also commissioned.
The idea to work in vinyl, in fact, came from a commission. “I had always thought it would be a good idea to create a portrait of a famous musician using vinyl, but never did so until someone commissioned one.
I have completed quite a few since then and from next year onwards I will be using only vinyl for my portraits of musicians.” Not content with portraiture, Ed has also completed everything from book covers to book tables: “I recently completed a book table bearing the cover of George Orwell’s 1984.”
Thus far, Ed has completely covered his surface in tiles and/or vinyl, but he is currently interested in ’emptiness’ as well. “In the future I will be leaving a few spaces blank; it makes for a more interesting look and one that hasn’t been done before.”
Ed is currently working on commissions but in the future, the slate is clean: “I could work on a mosaic of Muhammad Ali, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, maybe John Lennon or Che Guevara…” Cleary, the artist is drawn to those who share his passion for creativity.
“I admire those who inspire through music, sport or art.” Indeed, inspiration is they key behind the legends we build and venerate throughout history.
Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography courtesy of Ed Chapman