Michael Armitage

Hayena, 2015

Oil paint on lubugo bark cloth

170.2 × 221 cm


Interested in purchasing this work?

Enquire

Additional Information

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

We offer collectors a range of shipping options including a variety of specialist art couriers.
Please allow four to six weeks for the artwork to arrive after purchase.

Artwork
Description

Armitage’s portrayal of a hyena is part of a larger series of paintings exploring the representation of animals. The hyena is engulfed in a blue aura that overpowers the backdrop of the Savannah-like scene. In this painting, it is as if the hyena is in a void, immune to gravity, floating through his surroundings. There is little haste in the movement created by Armitage’s bodies of blue hues. The hyena is possibly feasting on its latest prey or in the midst of a liminal stage of transition from animal into another corporeal form.

In various East African cultures, the hyena is a sign of immortality, human weakness and all that is negative in humans – to call someone a hyena is a grave insult. The nature of the hyena has encouraged fear in its perception, as they are deemed the companions of witches. It is believed that they are born in the homes of witches and faithfully nurtured by them. To kill or bring harm to a hyena would prompt a caretaker to bestow witchcraft upon the perpetrator. The mysticism surrounding the hyena is encouraged further by the belief that witches can transform into hyenas and vice versa. Despite obvious cultural references, Armitage does leave the portrayal open to interpretation.

The evident holes at the bottom of ‘Hayena’ is authentic to Armitage’s laborious technique. Painted on lubugo bark cloth – a material created by days of beating the bark – and then scraped, revised and repainted is a distinctive characteristic of the artist’s process. A multitude of layers and textures provide the basis for the depth in his paintings.

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

November 11th, 2015 until
January 25th, 2016
Curated by Eugenio Re Rebaudengo