You, Who Are Still Alive: Michael Armitage’s lights and places from Kenya to Basel
In his latest cycle of works, exhibited on his first solo exhibition in Switzerland at the Kunsthalle in Basel entitled You, Who Are Still Alive, the artist Michael Armitage has approached the landscape of his homeland, Kenya, rendering an abstract vision of it, deeply interiorized and laden with symbols, myths, memories, and some foreign, sometimes distant elements from East African culture itself.
The exhibition features an impressive new body of works, the artist’s most comprehensive presentation of recent work to date. It includes numerous large-scale paintings, among them the largest Armitage has ever made, and a selection of delicate ink drawings that reveal his exquisite draftsmanship.
Born in 1984 in Kenya, with a Kikuyu mother and an English father, Armitage spent his childhood in Nairobi until the age of sixteen, when he moved to the UK to study painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and soon after at the Royal Academy. A mixture of distant cultures, a sense of belonging that cling to Kenya but with a strong debt and recognition for the success he has achieved in Europe, in recent years Armitage has asserted his own stylistic language, imbued with color and shapes, landscapes and men, crossing the blurred boundary between past and present, nostalgia for what he has left behind and amazement at what he has found.
As a young apprentice, an amateur drawer, unaware that making art could become a profession, today Armitage presents himself to the public of the Kunsthalle Basel with a series of works created during the three-year lockdown spent between London and Nairobi. In an interview with The Art Newspaper on 27 June 2022, the artist said: “Personally, I have taken an experimental stance of observing and reacting directly to the landscape, thinking about the inclusion of historical and mythological narratives”.
In these latest paintings he worked with oil paint on a Lubugo bark fiber, often used as a tribal souvenir in Kenya, but which is a Ugandan ceremonial cloth made by the Baganda people. After these three years spent painting en plein air, today Michael Armitage’s works find a space, a surface, and a perspective from which to be seen, evoking that country that has profoundly conditioned his existence, charging it with lights, places, people, and impulses that find a strong way of expression in his hand.
Rocco Belosi – Contributor
Michael Armitage – You, Who Are Still Alive
20.05.2022 – 04.09.2022
Discover more: www.kunsthallebasel.ch