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b. 1984, Kenya

Michael Armitage Biography

Drawing from East African and European folkloric and artistic traditions, as well as contemporary politics and pop culture, Kenyan-British artist Michael Armitage paints dreamlike and mythical scenes.

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Michael Armitage's paintings are an expression of both personal experience and collective trauma, which he couples with a local imagery of symbols and mythology. In doing so, there is an underlying optimism to his works: they suggest that Kenya is a culture in a state of flux and while it certainly has some archaic aspects, these should not be considered as fully representative of Kenyan culture. There is much to be celebrated and Armitage sees these positive aspects as a critical element in addressing Kenya's social issues.

In his conversation with Kudzanai-Violet Hwami for Ocula Magazine in 2019, Armitage said that he avoids using intimate images as the source of his paintings because 'the sources are all on the same playing field and it's just about different ways of telling a narrative.'

The aesthetic qualities of Michael Armitage's work are instrumental in delivering his observations as they add depth and mystery. His use of gestural and flowing brushstrokes creates a lush expressiveness, recalling the dreamlike colour palette of the Fauvists. Armitage's subject matter, however, is not idyllic paradise but allusions to the realities of modern Kenya.

Michael Armitage often paints on Lubugo bark cloth, traditionally a material for burial shrouds and other ceremonies for the Buganda people in Uganda. As the artist told MoMA Magazine in 2020, however, objects made out of lubugo cloth have been commodified as tourist mementos and curios. In his paintings, Armitage reclaims Lubugo cloth to address the reduction of the meaning of culturally significant items while paying attention to the materialities of the cloth as he paints.

Michael Armitage studied in London, earning a BA in Fine Art at The School of Fine Art in 2007 and a postgraduate diploma from the Royal Academy Schools in 2010.

Armitage's work has been included in a number of international art exhibitions, among them May You Live in Interesting Times, the 58th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale; Drawing Biennial 2017 in London; and La vie moderne: 13th Biennale de Lyon in France. In Taipei Biennial 2020, he showed Strange Fruit (2016), an oil painting on Lubugo bark cloth in which a female figure hangs from a Bambakofi tree.

Michael Armitage Solo Exhibitions include:

Paradise Edict, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2020); The Promised Land, MCA Australia, Sydney (2019); The Chapel, South London Gallery (2017); Peace Coma, Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2017); Strange Fruit, White Cube, Hong Kong (2017); MATRIX 263, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, California (2016); Myth and Market (with John Tiney), Studio 1.1, London (2013).

Michael Armitage Group Exhibitions include:

Prisoner of Love, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2019); Talisman in the Age of Difference, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London (2018); Now, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2017); Prospect. 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, New Orleans (2017).

Ocula | 2021

Michael Armitage Featured Artworks

Strange Fruit by Michael Armitage contemporary artwork
Michael ArmitageStrange Fruit, 2016Oil on Lubugo bark cloth
300 x 170 cm
Taipei Fine Arts Museum

Michael Armitage Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Taipei Biennial 2020 at Taipei Fine Arts Museum
21 November 2020–14 March 2021 Taipei Biennial 2020 Taipei Fine Arts MuseumTaipei
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Artists for New York at Hauser & Wirth, 548 West 22nd Street, New York
1–22 October 2020 Group Exhibition Artists for New York Hauser & Wirth548 West 22nd Street, New York

Michael Armitage In Ocula Magazine

London Galleries Prepare for 12 April Reopening Ocula News London Galleries Prepare for 12 April Reopening London, 9 April 2021

Many galleries struggled with their doors closed, and not just financially. But they also adapted new ways of showing and selling art.

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Senzeni Marasela: ‘My work is rooted in Johannesburg’ Ocula Conversation Senzeni Marasela: ‘My work is rooted in Johannesburg’ By Jareh Das, Cape Town

Senzeni Marasela traces her practice within the context of South Africa's generation of post-apartheid female artists.

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MoMA Expansion: Once the Modern, Always the Modern Ocula Feature MoMA Expansion: Once the Modern, Always the Modern By Mohammad Salemy, New York

Mohammad Salemy reports on art historical and political redress within The Museum of ModernArt's permanent collection after the museum's recent expansion.

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Michael Armitage and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami on Painting Ocula Conversation  |  In Partnership with Gasworks Michael Armitage and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami on Painting By Michael Armitage, London

Michael Armitage and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami discuss how painting allows them to navigate their contexts.

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Michael Armitage In Related Press

Tightrope walk: the show that sums up art in 67 paintings Related Press Tightrope walk: the show that sums up art in 67 paintings 2 December 2015, The Guardian

They are small things, clustered in an order that is like an interrupted thought. Hung just as they were in his studio, Raoul De Keyser’s last paintings now occupy a wall at David Zwirner gallery in London. De Keyser died in 2012 at the age of 82. A few marks, some strange bent shapes; some are barely paintings at all. One has a small...

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