Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage creates an ambitious group of new works as the focus of his first exhibition in Switzerland. The moody, sumptuously layered figurative paintings draw equally from past and current events, recollections and mythology, popular culture and art historical references. What results are haunting and provocative reflections on politics, history, civil unrest, and humanity.
Notwithstanding all of the works’ stunning representational power, it is the holes that prevail in Armitage’s paintings. They ensnare you. Each such hole is somehow a wound, but also an aperture, an orifice, a portal. There is a galaxy of them, surrounded by patently stitched joints and thick sutures, raised like keloid scars across a body. This, along with the paintings’ puckering, all the more evocative of damaged and hastily repaired skin, prevents any sense of serenity or ease on the part of a viewer. The holes and tears complicate the image, at times interrupting it; at others, they are its determining aspect. These gaps are as much visual as visceral, throbbing through and against the painted image. In the quivering surfaces, the artist doubles down on the anxiety inherent in his narratives.
The exhibition is made possible through the lead support of White Cube and additionally, through the generous support of Martin Hatebur.