Michael Armitage was born in 1984 in Nairobi, Kenya. He received his BA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Fine Art, London (2007) and has a Postgraduate Diploma from the Royal Academy Schools, London (2010).
Michael Armitage’s paintings weave multiple narratives that are drawn from historical and current news media, internet gossip, and his own ongoing recollections of Kenya, his country of birth.
Applying the paint in layers, Armitage scrapes, revises and repaints his compositions. The visual iconography of East Africa lies at the heart of his practice: its urban and rural landscape, vegetation and varied animal life. Undermining this rich colour palette and dream-like imagery, however, is a quiet exposition of Kenya’s sometimes harsh reality to reflect upon more universal concerns: its politics, social inequalities, violence and extreme disparities in wealth. In turn, Armitage considers the more absurd aspects of the everyday, commenting on both society and the surrounding natural environment – evoked with a lyrical and phantasmagorical vision.
Living and working between London and Nairobi, Armitage paints with oil on Lubugo, a traditional bark cloth from Uganda, which is beaten over a period of days creating a natural material which when stretched taut has occasional holes and coarse indents. As noted by the artist, the use of Lubugo is at once an attempt to locate and destabilise the subject of his paintings.
In September 2020, Armitage opened a solo exhibition, Paradise Edict, at the Haus der Kunst, Munich which toured to the Royal Academy of Arts, London in May 2021. The exhibition included a collaborative project with the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute, a non-profit platform that Armitage is developing with the director, Ayako Bertolli. While in Germany, Armitage was awarded the 6th Ruth Baumgarte Art Award.
Born: 1984 in Nairobi
RA Schools student from 2007 to 2010
Elected RA: 14 December 2021
Honorary officer: Eranda Professor of Drawing 14 December 2023