Michael Armitage, Study (Face I), 2019 Michael Armitage Study (Face I), 2019 Ink on paper, Another's Tongue © White Cube (Theo Christelis)

Another’s Tongue : a major online solo exhibition

By his choice of title, ‘Another’s Tongue’, Armitage acknowledges the multitude of voices that he weaves into his works.

A representation of the plurality of human experiences

‘Another’s Tongue’ brings together works on paper that the Kenyan-British artist Michael Armitage draws from life, his memory and other sources, including his video notes which form the epilogue of the exhibition. In fluid ink studies, Armitage paints the expanse of the Kenyan landscape and its wildlife, as well as life on the streets in urban East Africa. His vivid character sketches capture the energy of performers, prophets, musicians, the costumed crowds at Kenyan election rallies, and the illegal brewers in Nairobi’s slums.

Michael ArmitageStudy (Sugar Cane Vendor I), 2019 © White Cube (Theo Christelis
Michael Armitage Study Sugar Cane Vendor I, 2019 © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Another’s tongue

The painter Walter Sickert said,I would like all of the works to be different, but also unified. Different in the sense that every day is different, different in that experiences are always different, I’d like the work to reflect that sort of change and the way a mind changes, the way an attitude shifts This is also exactly how Armitage would like its work to be perceived.

A political dimension

During the visit of Michael Armitage’s exhibition “the Accomplice” at the Norval Foundation the writer Imraan coovadia said ” Armitage is clearly more interested in the poetic or philosophical significance of his visual material than in its purely documentary value. And so he is typically drawn to what takes place away from the political stage: the moving human dramas or “sub- plots” that distract from and question the dominant political narrative, telling different, often competing, stories“.

Michael Armitage Study (Uhuru Park I), 2017 © White Cube (Theo Christelis)
Michael Armitage Study Uhuru Park I, 2017 © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Another’s tongue

Armitage has for example, during the 2017 Kenyan elections joined a local TV crew at an opposition rally in Uhuru Park in the centre of Nairobi. Caught up in the large crowds, Armitage recalled a tree full of perching observers, and carnivalesque revellers dressed up in wigs, masks and carrying slings. These characters were later caught on camera running from teargas and hurling stones at the police, who retaliated with gunfire. Many of the works on paper derive from film footage of these scenes, and later informed a series of paintings.

Michael Armitage

Michael Armitage was born in 1984 in Nairobi, Kenya. He works between Nairobi and London where, from 2007 until 2010, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Royal Academy Schools. Within the last year, Armitage has participated in the 58th Venice Biennale and had solo exhibitions at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Museum of Modern Art, New York in collaboration with the Studio Museum Harlem, and the Norval Foundation, Cape Town. 

Michael Armitage © Michael Armitage
Michael Armitage © Michael Armitage

Concerning the methods used, Armitage unifies his diverse subject matter by the use of the medium Prout’s brown ink. Traditionally used for architectural renderings, the burnt umber ink allows Armitage to layer and dilute his marks in a way analogous to the building-up and rubbing-down of his painting practice. Tonal brushwork with strong chiaroscuro brings to life expressive facial and physical features, capturing a fleeting expression or glimpsed moment with economy and sensitivity.

White’s cube Gallery
Contemporary Art Exhibition
From July 6 to August 16 of 2020
144-152, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, London SE1 3TQ
United Kingdom

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About the author

Oceane Kinhouande

After graduating with a law degree from the University Panthéon-Assas Paris II, I joined ICART Paris to pursue an MBA in International Art Market. I am passionate about contemporary art from Africa and Afro-descendant cultures. I believe it is vital and important that contemporary art from Africa informs us about the multiplicity and nuances of its realities. It is also very important to me that this artistic expression be a vector of African and Afro-descendant history, identity and innovation.

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