Mike Armitage

Born 1984, Kenya

Mike Armitage received a BA from the Slade School of Art, London in 2007 then graduated with an MA from The Royal Academy School in London in 2010.

Armitage’s landscape paintings feature large areas of flat colour that dominate his landscapes. The colour acts as both the central motif that holds the paintings together and an immediate barrier within the painting. Using imagery that is derived from a type of tourist painting familiar to East African markets, and heavily referencing East African painters such as George Lilanga and E.S. Tinga Tinga, his landscapes engage with the development of contemporary African art from the market place to the museum. They bring into question the function of art within the rapidly changing cultures of East Africa and the position of the artist within the development of the Identity and Politics of the region.

In his more recent abstract works, Armitage uses palm leaf matting, bark cloth and a variety of African fabrics to provide a coarse yet intricate structure that is adorned with maasai beads, disparate scribbles, painted areas, acacia tree sap, painted areas, bold shapes and delicate lines. The seemingly abstract happenings fall in and out of recognisable forms: a fine line that balances a sphere and a stain on one side and a senseless scribble on the other falls into focus as a reclining stick figure in the sun.

Expectation, cultural cliché, primitive imagery and modernist forms are used to create these striking yet contemplative visual spaces that engage with cultural exchange and the power play between Africa and the West, raising questions such as:  What is the function of art in African politics and cultural development? Within the realms of cultural cliché is there space for imagination? Who creates identity? What is the function of looking in relation to the development of a cultural identity?

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