Michael Armitage

Ewaso Niro, 2016-2017

colour pencil and conté, Hand finished litograph, Watercolor

73 x 88.5 cm

Edition size: 20

Unique £ 1000 - 3000


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Artwork
Description

Michael Armitage is a Kenya born artist who lives and works in London. Armitage constantly looks back to Eastern Africa with his artworks, narrating about Kenya and his personal experiences. The artist uses painting as a meditative experience, as he believes that it is a way of trying to understand life better.

In this lithograph, Armitage depicts the wildlife of Kenya, specifically at the river Ewaso Ng’iro – referenced with the title Ewaso Niro. The landscape is cut in the middle by a mangrove tree, which extends through the height of the paper. The trunk is surrounded by swirls, enclosing the scene in a synaesthesia of colours and shapes; the environment is heavily detailed to the point that the group of women kneeling around the base of the tree isn’t as noticeable in comparison. What look like ‘Baikoko’ dancers seem almost hidden in the landscape, unnaturally small against the animals that frame the scene – which are almost threatening to the group.

With this choice of proportions, Armitage perhaps addresses the heavy restrictions the Tanzanian Government put on the Baikoko dance due to its sexually explicit nature.

His belief that art can trigger social change echoes in his œuvre, as he specifically focuses on political and social issues in Eastern Africa; he encourages the public to stop looking at the news passively, but to engage in social change.

About
the artist

Michael Armitage (b. 1984) is a Kenyan born artist currently living between Nairobi and London. The artist’s predominant concerns are the social and political issues facing our contemporary global society. By weaving multiple narratives, drawn from the media and his native country's mythologies, Armitage strives to emphasise the universal social problems that many choose to deny. He has a firm belief that art is an agent of social change and through his captivating figurative style, he compels the viewer to take a deeper look at the content his art addresses. Armitage questions the supposed passivity of watching news media: a spectator is already complicit and should ponder their own responsibility towards the reported events.

In his paintings, Armitage intertwines narratives drawn from his memories, and discourses from both Western and East African vantage points. Such approach allows him to raise the discussion of the impact of oppressive narratives from the perspective of either region.

Michael Armitage combines his artistic training in London, (BA from Slade School of Art in 2007, MA Royal Academy, London 2010) with traditional East African hues, materials and techniques. He paints on lubugo bark cloth, a fabric resulting from a laborious process of beating the bark for several days, and eventually stretching it. The entire process leaves the material taut and often with holes and coarse depressions. The atypical surface of the cloth manipulates the manner in which the oil paint is applied and dries, ultimately adding to Armitage’s distinctive amorphous shapes. The Ugandan material is ridden with social and political meaning. It was traditionally used as a burial garment but has contemporarily been commoditised, being sold in East African markets as adapted placemats, baskets and other touristic knickknacks.


Armitage intertwines narratives drawn from his memories, and discourses from both Western and East African vantage points. Such approach allows him to raise the discussion of the impact of oppressive narratives from the perspective of either region.

The Ugandan material is ridden with social and political meaning. It was traditionally used as a burial garment but has contemporarily been commoditised, being sold in East African markets as adapted placemats, baskets and other touristic knickknacks.


Michael Armitage
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition

April 12th, 2018 until
April 24th, 2018
Curated by ARTUNER