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  • Depicting a young Black man wearing a rich gold-colored jacket with jeans set against a tropical backdrop, Cinga Samson’s Two piece 1 is a powerful example of this rising artist’s celebrated oeuvre. Embodying the likes of the male counterpart to Mickalene Thomas’ bold female figures, the man poses in a cool, confident stance. The surreality of the setting is amplified by the figure’s striking eyes, rendered as glowing white orbs of spectral light. At once inviting and mysterious, familiar and extraordinary, the present work embodies Samson’s unique subjectivity and painterly assurance that “prove[s] himself to be a vital emerging figure in contemporary painting.”i Emblematic of the artist’s up-and-coming presence in the art world, White Cube announced its global representation of Samson recently in May 2021.

     

    [left] Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Paul Guillaume, 1916. Museo del Novecento, Milan, Image: © Alinari Archives / Mauro Magliani / Art Resource, NY [right] Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Man, ca. 1483. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Image: Art Resource, NY
    [left] Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Paul Guillaume, 1916. Museo del Novecento, Milan, Image: © Alinari Archives / Mauro Magliani / Art Resource, NY [right] Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a Young Man, ca. 1483. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Image: Art Resource, NY

    "In all my art books, African artists are in the last chapter, if at all…I want you to look at my work and think, ‘That’s exquisite, that’s incredible, I am blown away — and I know it is completely African,’ without feeling that it is lacking."
    —Cinga Samson

    Best known for his lush figurative paintings that border on the ethereal, Samson fuses themes of spirituality and superstition drawn from his upbringing in Ethembeni, a village in the South African countryside, with those of aspiration and identity, looking to the works of Egon Schiele and Andrew Wyeth, among others. Typically using himself or his brother as the model, Samson stages his settings with found décor, as he explains, “in my own environment or in the Jungle (palms, flowers, etc...). After that, I use the photo we produce to paint with oil on canvas. I don’t invent; I mostly use elements that already exist in the picture.”ii On the sources of his subject matter, he elucidated, “My inspiration streams out of my youth and my desires. It also comes from my very spiritual background. I use everything around me: the source of my desires and aspirations, my relatives, my nature, my background… I dig inspiration from who I am; I am a young African male.”iii While Samson has noted the deep influence of Western artists on his work, including Alberto Giacometti, Paul Gauguin, Francis Bacon, and Louise Bourgeois, what ultimately foregrounds his practice is preserving the dignity of his heritage. As he cheekily expressed, “It’s that Serena Williams excellence, which, if you deny it, you know you’re just evil.”iv

    "The moon was low and very bright, it was shining on us and reflecting the white of our eyes. It remains such a strong memory that every time I work on a painting, I remember this night. The eyes of my characters remind me of this moonlight; it’s a spiritual reference."
    —Cinga Samson

    Edvard Munch, Moonlight, 1895. National Gallery, Oslo, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY
    Edvard Munch, Moonlight, 1895. National Gallery, Oslo, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

    According to the artist, the source of the captivating eyes of his figures derives from a singular moment in his youth when he was wandering with his cousin by a river in a forest, where they were met with the moon’s subliminal light. Encapsulating the significance of spirituality in his work, the eyes have become to know to be Samson’s signature motif. As Siddhartha Mitter of the New York Times observed, “Then there are the eyes. Mr. Samson leaves them empty, milky ovals on otherwise finely rendered faces that invert the quizzical gaze of figures in a Belkis Ayón collograph, and echo the ghostly migrants returned from a sea disaster who prowl Dakar in Mati Diop’s film 'Atlantics,' demanding accounts. Mr. Samson’s people — including himself, through a set of small, intense self-portraits…aren’t angry, but won’t cooperate with the viewer’s gaze. They navigate an exploitative world without sacrifice, spiritually armed.”v By imbuing his figures with a confident and impenetrable aura, Samson’s acclaimed practice aims to create an image of power for the African community while avoiding the sole association of his work to the political conversation. In his words, “I make art for the love of doing it. I am not an activist, I am not involved in any political movement: I am just an African man. I don’t want to bring the stigmas of Africa into my work…As soon as we engage those topics, people think it’s our identity, and it becomes our identity. Our goal as the young generation is to get ourselves out of the black stereotype such as sickness or racism. We are part of the new identity of the African continent.”vi

     

    Cut from the Archives

     

     

    i Meara Sharma, “An Artist Who Doesn’t Want to Feed Western Fantasies About Africa,” The New York Times Style Magazine, February 21, 2020, online.
    ii Cinga Samson, quoted in “Discussion with Cinga Samson,” Perrotin, December 2018.
    iii Ibid.
    iv Meara Sharma, “An Artist Who Doesn’t Want to Feed Western Fantasies About Africa,” The New York Times Style Magazine, February 21, 2020, online.
    v Siddhartha Mitter, “What to See Right Now in New York Art Galleries,” The New York Times, March 11, 2020.
    vi Cinga Samson, quoted in “Discussion with Cinga Samson,” Perrotin, December 2018.

    • Provenance

      blank projects, Cape Town
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2018

1

Two piece 1

signed and dated "CINGA SAMSON 2018" on the reverse
oil on canvas
45 1/4 x 35 3/8 in. (114.9 x 89.9 cm)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $378,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021