Painted in oil on Lubugo, a cloth made from the bark of the Ugandan fig tree that is traditionally used in funeral ceremonies, the British artist Michael Armitage's choice of ground struck a chord: one that both positions and destroys its painting. Tapped, stretched, and then stitched together, Lubugo has a uniquely natural feel with pitting, texture, and holes that resist paint. In his paintings, working with this ground, the surface and support together serve as an integral part of the pictorial space.
Inspired by a native forest near the artist's home, it showcases a vast swath of black native vines and creepers, some of which are known to have medicinal properties. This vegetation with therapeutic potential represents a hidden intellectual culture: a pearl of wisdom and understanding not related to literacy but to a waning oral tradition. Similar natural forms appear in this painting, overlooking a polychrome, iridescent embryo sac, the works are all characterized by imagery, nothing is grounded, and their forms seem fixed only by the luminous intensity of the palette.
Michael Armitage - <<Amongst the Living, 2022>>
Oil on Lubugo bark cloth
86 5/8 × 165 3/8 in. (220 × 420 cm)