Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage was born in 1984 and is a Kenyan artist currently living between Nairobi and London. Armitage gained his BA from the Slade School of Art in 2007, and MA from the Royal Academy, London in 2010, and combines his artistic training with traditional East African hues, materials and techniques. Armitage is concerned with the social and political issues facing our contemporary global society, and uses his artwork to incite social change. Interestingly, Armitage uses Lubugo Bark Cloth to paint upon instead of traditional canvas or linen. The bark cloth is made through days of beating and stretching the bark. This process often leads to imperfections and even holes in the surface of the material. The material used to paint upon is also filled with meaning as it is ordinarily used in Ugandan culture as a burial garment, as well as being commoditised and turned into placemats, baskets and other touristic knickknacks.

#mydressmychoice, 2015, Oil on Lubugo bark cloth, 59 × 77 in. (149.9 × 195.6 cm), © Michael Armitage

For the purpose of this blog post I have chosen the above painting to look at more closely ‘ #mydressmychoice’. We can see in the painting a woman laying seemingly on the floor in a classical nude pose, although upon closer inspection we can see her sandals strewn on the floor and a group of people (presumably males) gathered around her. Upon further research into this image I learned that it refers to the assault at a bus station in Nairobi in November 2014, where a woman was stripped and molested by a group of men because of the clothes she was wearing. Video footage of the assault went viral, and sparked demonstrations in the capital.

Following submission of Assignment Two – Collection Painting I was advised by my tutor to undertake some research into Michael Armitage and his work. Above I have taken several images as I built up each layer of the painting, beginning with marking out the rough composition and tone of the painting and then with each layer adding in more detail. I particularly like the difference in the last image, where I have added white notes to the canvas which has really made some of the colour pop. As with other paintings I have recreated such as that of Genieve Figgis and Cecily Brown this work allowed me to be quite light and delicate with my brush strokes, aside from the stern dark legs and feet of the mob above, the rest of the painting feels quite delicate. Which actually upon reflection, really translates the emotion of the scene itself.

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