Three exhibitions to see in London this weekend
Until September 19, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD; tickets £ 18, discounts available
How does Michael Armitage charge his paintings with such electricity? This exhibition presents only 15 of his works, but their power is tangible. Alongside them, 31 works by figurative artists from East Africa, selected by Armitage in honor of their critical impact on his practice. All of Armitage’s paintings here are done on lubugo bark and for an artist born in Kenya but trained in art schools in London, you can see why a quintessentially East African textile would be appealing. With all the vitality of its imperfections, the fibrous grain of the fabric, marked by the seams where the patches have been sewn, energizes his compositions.
Some Armitage paintings have the added edge of recent political events. Hornbill (September 21-24, 2013) (2014) presents one of the four terrorists responsible for the attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, in which 67 people were shot. In the palimpsest of figures drifting in and out of the field of painting as in a dream or a reverie; the intoxicating colors of the paintings – passages of blue, enhanced with fluorescent pink with a bass line of verdant green – seduce the eye. After a year in which so many of us have felt chilled by our relentless screen exposure, the charge Armitage provides is just the reboot we need – the electricity of the painting torn straight from the book of life
• This review is modified from a longer version published in our print edition of June 2021
Until July 10, Mimosa House, 47 Theobalds Rd, WC1X 8SP
Inaugurating the new London space of Mimosa House, this multimedia collective exhibition responds to the concept of syncope, described in music as “an unstressed ’empty’ beat that interrupts the expected rhythm”. In a time of unprecedented upheaval and suspension, the pandemic’s pregnant break is fertile ground for a show that considers how silence during a period of delay can be an opportunity for transformation and dissent.
Music is present in many works, such as the sound piece 16 weeks (2018) by Mira Calix who maps the ultrasound recorded movement of a fetus in utero to produce corresponding sound signals which are then transcribed into an orchestral piece. Frieze 2019 Artist Award winner Himali Singh Soin presents a work of moving images in which she digitizes the entire text of Virgina Woolf’s 1932 novel. Waves for each semicolon (the novel is distinguished by its frequent and pioneering use of punctuation, itself similar to syncope), effectively reducing the content of the book only to its rhythmic pauses. A newly commissioned film by DJ and artist Chooc Ly Tan features an interview with a dancer who competes in ballroom vogue competitions. They describe how the pause before a big drop in rhythm can be used to introduce a new movement: an invitation to display a daring feat and reveal the unexpected.
Until July 3, TJ Boulting, 59 Riding House St, W1W 7EG
For those who have grown accustomed to the calm of the lockdown, the multi-sensory painting installation inspired by Kate Dunn’s raves can prove to be an overwhelming experience. A soundtrack of gabber music (a hardcore genre of distorted electronic dance set to a frantic tempo), accompanies a series of large-scale canvases in the shape of novel altarpieces, to which Dunn has applied photo-reactive UV paint in unbridled gestural brushstrokes. . Above the head, the lights change in manic rhythm, transforming the paintings into pulsating bodies of luminescent streaks reminiscent of strobe visuals found in nightclubs in the 1990s.
“I wanted to do something intense – come back to my body after a period of numbness,” says Dunn. Having trained as a classical artist in Florence, she compares the experience of the rave to religious sermons, drawing direct parallels between the convulsive masses of a gospel congregation and those of a dark dance floor. At 200 BPM, the rhythm of the gabber pushes the limits of the human heart and pushes its followers near the point of physical breaking. But thanks to her relentless pulse, a ravishing quality is produced, delivering a sense of oneness we were so deprived of last year. After such loss and isolation, it seems vital that our art spaces offer experiences as primitive and intensely communal as that of a shared beating heart.