Exhibition: Michael Armitage at Norval Foundation (South Africa, June 2020)

Norval Foundation brings rising Venice Biennale star Michael Armitage to South Africa

At just 35, Kenyan artist Michael Armitage is swiftly emerging as one of the most exciting young voices of contemporary art, heralded as a stand-out artist at the 2019 Venice Biennale. Norval Foundation is proud to host his exhibition ‘Accomplice’, a series of paintings representing the complex social and political dynamics exploring multiple facets of the human condition, taking place in Gallery 01 until 15 June 2020.

The artworks included in Accomplice demonstrate the artist’s extensive art historical knowledge, with compositional structures and thematic concerns echoing key artworks from both Western and African art histories.

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Armitage “The Dumb Oracle” 2019. Courtesy of Norval.

Created over the past two years, the artist’s vivid depiction of inequality and political uncertainty are drawn from his visits to rallies in the run-up to Kenya’s 2017 elections, combined with his own impressions, memories and discourses. Observations of contemporary Nairobi and images culled from social and broadcast media form the basis of paintings that are in conversation with Western figurative painting and East African modernism.

Armitage, who is based between Nairobi, Kenya, where he grew up, and London, UK, where he studied, has recently gained international critical acclaim by major museums, curators, collectors and galleries. Testament to this is an upcoming solo exhibition at Haus der Kunst (Munich, Germany) and a myriad of recent solo exhibitions worldwide. Armitage substitutes linen or canvas with Lubugo cloth as the ground for all the paintings in Accomplice. A textile developed by the Baganda of southern Uganda, and designated a piece of oral and intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO, Lubugo is created by removing a thin layer of bark from the mutuba tree. This is then beaten with a series of mallets to form a thin, flexible material that is traditionally used as a burial shroud or for ceremonial clothing. Yet Armitage adopted this as canvas after discovering it in a tourist store in Nairobi in 2010. The fissures and irregularities that are common to Lubugo are incorporated into the composition of his paintings, putting the artist’s practice in dialogue with the conceptual and historical meanings of the cloth, as well as its particular material qualities.

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Armitage “The Accomplice” 2019. Courtesy of Norval.

Accomplice is organised by Owen Martin, Chief Curator and Talia Naicker, Curatorial and Collections Assistant, Norval Foundation.

About Norval Foundation 

A 20-minute drive outside of Cape Town, Norval Foundation in Steenberg is an accessible and inspiring cultural destination. Visitors to the Michael Armitage exhibition also gain access to the Norval Foundation sculpture gardens with select picnic options and the on-site restaurant The Skotnes, making this an ideal daytime excursion.

Norval Foundation is a centre for art and cultural expression, dedicated to the research and exhibition of 20th and 21st century visual art from South Africa and beyond. Located in the Steenberg area of Cape Town, adjacent to Table Mountain National Park, Norval Foundation combines the experience of art with an appreciation for nature.

Find out much more about Norval Foundation here.

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Michael Armitage, courtesy of Norval


Follow Norval Foundation on Facebook @NorvalFdn and on Instagram @norvalfoundation

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