Armitage interlaces narratives produced by the media, along with cultural idioms and happenings to reflect on different urbanities. In ‘Clarinet’, Armitage brings forth the relationship between a man and his wife in Kenya. In the foreground, a man is depicted waving his arms and in the background, a woman is partially crouching, as if cautious of his behaviour.
Armitage came across a story in the local newspaper about men that were repeatedly attacked by their wives. This led him to begin looking up footage on YouTube of women beating men, something he found amusing. The reversal of the obvious framework of domestic abuse was confrontational and baffled him. In these videos, Armitage could see that the women often did not have the strength to kill their husband, while if the roles were reversed, the level of violence would be heightened and the outcome more horrendous. In this painting, the artist explores his own cultural constructs. In the Kikuyu tribe, the tribe Armitage originates from, men would be ostracised if it were known that their wives beat them. Nevertheless, there is a lot of local history emphasising the strength of women. This is a theme that Armitage continues to explore in a larger series ‘Clarinet’.
This painting is exemplary of the amorphous nature of Armitage’s work. Although the range of the colour palette is extensive, the hues are reflective of the essence of Kenya. Furthermore, Armitage paints oil onto lubugo bark cloth, a Ugandan practice where a fabric is generated by days of strenuous beating. The process leaves every piece of cloth unique, with coarse indentations and holes. This manipulates the paint and the manner in which light interacts with the work.