Michael Armitage: Paradise Edict ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Until September 19, 2021


Michael Armitage's new exhibition at the Royal Academy, Paradise Edict, may not be an obvious crowd pleaser but it is fascinating to see him paint strikingly insightful images, taking us into the world of his native Kenya and its people. Suffused as they are with references to the classical masters such as Titian we can also see the influences of Gauguin and Goya that infuse his works. Delving far beyond the widely held image of Kenya as a tourist paradise of animals and spectacular scenery, we glimpse politics, culture and history too. This is especially noticeable in the arresting "The Paradise Edict" where animals prowl around amongst the soldiers and terrorists, while the painting "Antigone" references the tragic but defiant woman of Greek tragedy. Painting as he does onto Lubugo bark cloth, Armitage is able to give his paintings a unique texture. Although he uses a broad colour palette there is an overall preponderance of browns and umbers providing a slightly melancholic feel to the works; that is not to say that his works are without hope. These recent paintings seem to be much less purely figurative than many of his earlier works and demonstrate the development of the artist. Armitage also generously gives over a gallery to other East African artists displaying an extremely broad range of artistic styles, many of which have influenced him. This isn't the easiest of shows but it certainly packs a punch and is an enormous contrast to the Hockney show in the main galleries.

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Michael Armitage, The Paradise Edict, 2019. Oil on Lubugo bark cloth, 220 x 420 cm. The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection © Michael Armitage. Photo: © White Cube (Theo Christelis).

Rated: ★★★★

When, Where, Getting there:
  • Until September 19, 2021
  • Tue to Sun: 10 am - 6 pm (last admission 5:30 pm)
  • Royal Academy of Arts, The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries
  • Nearest tube: Green Park
  • https://www.royalacademy.org.uk

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