Cinga Samson - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Friday, October 15, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'When I create an artwork, I want the results to feel secret, almost holy and distant. I always picture the audience of my work standing in front of it […] unclear as to what it’s all about and also having a sense that what’s in the images is something from a different world that they don’t belong to, maybe from another time or perhaps somewhere where no one goes.' —Cinga Samson 

    Executed in 2016 and belonging to South African artist Cinga Samson’s compelling Hliso Street series, the present work is a stunning example of the artist’s facility for surreal mystery and great narrative power. Working within a figurative tradition, the self-taught artist explores his own complex feelings around masculinity, community, spirituality, and the tensions between tradition and modernity. A tribute to his late mother, Sis Lungy, the works in the Hliso Street series are united by recurring accents of gold, ethereal floating flowers, and cut stems held by the solitary figure, his eyes either obscured, closed over, or possessing the milky opalescence that his more recent self-portraits have become recognised for. A pivotal series, the five Hliso Street paintings occupy a transitional moment in Samson’s body of work, connecting his earlier vanitas and still-life paintings with the dominant motifs of his more recent Safari Fantasy and Ivory series.


    Deftly blending the classical with the contemporary, Samson’s paintings generate a fantastic sense of supernatural fantasy. Executed in muted and yet luminous tones, Samson shrouds his canvases in a distinctive crepuscular light, endowing his figures with an enigmatic sense of self-sufficiency. Although his compositions are executed with a confident realism due, in part to the artist's tendency to work from carefully staged photographs, they nevertheless speak to a mysterious world that lies just beyond the scope of our understanding.


    Symbolism and the Supernatural

    'My work is deeply influenced by our spiritual background, superstitions, heritage, and beliefs. We don’t leave it behind. It’s still very relevant and true for us. I think that almost every African has experienced that kind of spirituality in their own family and community. I don’t know if spirituality is as much part of the everyday life anywhere else in the world, but here it is definitely part of who we are.' —Cinga SamsonIlluminated by an eerie dawn light that seems drawn out of the canvas itself, an elegantly dressed figure stands surrounded by large-headed white blooms. Delicately holding a long stem of smaller, flowered bells, the figure evokes the attitude of mourning, especially pointed when we learn of the special personal significance of the Cannas flowers that his mother used to plant around their house. Standing with his back to the glowing body of water, he seems lost in reverie, a private moment of remembrance and memorialisation, his closed eyes suggesting communion with forces unseen. In its sensitive attention to the fragility and vulnerability of the body Hlios Steet IV finds art-historical precedent in late 19th century Symbolism, Pablo Picasso’s early works and the stunningly beautiful self-portraits of Egon Schiele. However, where Schiele’s figures stare, confrontationally out at us, Samson’s protagonists refuse our gaze, his paintings ‘refining an aesthetic sensibility that extols his identity as a young African, but also deliberately withholds something from the viewer.’i


    Egon Schiele, Selbstbildnis mit Lampionfrüchten(Self-Portrait with Physalis), 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Photo © Fine Art Images / Bridgeman Images
    Egon Schiele, Selbstbildnis mit Lampionfrüchten(Self-Portrait with Physalis), 1912, Leopold Museum, Vienna. Photo © Fine Art Images / Bridgeman Images

    While Samson has is highly articulate on the deep influence of western artists on his work, what ultimately drives his practice is a deep connection to his heritage and community. As the artist explains: ‘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.’


    Addressing themes of youth, masculinity, and spirituality against a backdrop of post-colonial South Africa, Samson explores the complexities of community and masculinity on his own terms.


    Cinga Samson discusses the exploration of masculinity in his paintings 


    Collector’s Digest


    •    Phillips New York set the record price for a work by Cinga Samson with Two piece 1, which also marked the artist's Evening Sale debut in June 2021.


    •    Having shown regularly in Cape Town galleries over the past decade, Samson's work has been exhibited across the United States and Europe in recent years, proving him to be a vital emerging figure in contemporary painting.

    •    Following regular solo exhibitions at blank projects, Samson’s American debut came in 2020 with a much-anticipated solo show at Perrotin Gallery, New York. He has also participated in several group shows, including Mapping Black Identities at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2019.


    •    Announcing global representation of Samson earlier this year, White Cube will present a solo exhibition of of his work in 2022.


    i Meara Sharma, ‘An Artist Who doesn’t want to Feed Western Fantasies about Africa’, New York Times, 21 February 2020, online

    ii Cinga Samson, quoted in “Discussion with Cinga Samson,” Perrotin, December 2018

    • Provenance

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


Hliso Street IV

signed and dated 'Cinga Samson 2016' on the reverse
oil on canvas
80.1 x 59.9 cm (31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2016.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £239,400

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+44 7391 402741


Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 October 2021