FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa​

Practice of Interest

An afternoon in studio

with Cinga Samson


On a recent windy Cape Town weekday, FNB Art Joburg honoured an invitation to spend an in-studio afternoon with Cinga Samson. Featured in this week’s Of Interest, we learn more about the community behind his studio practice and the artist’s attempts to transfer sensitivities.

Industrial, in style and scale, it takes a while to take in the cavernous expanse of the open concept studio. Holding seven (or eight) large scale (almost floor to high ceiling length) canvases, the right side of the studio is devoted to process. To reach the paintings’ high points, beside each painting is scaffolding. On the floor, tubes of paint are organised into small heaps. Close by, a choir or isles (varying in size) hold smaller scale works. Although seemingly finished, Samson’s studio manager, Jonathan Goschen refers to them as works in progress.

From one of the rooms on the studio’s left, Samson emerges wearing a pair of loose black sweatpants and white t-shirt under an open robe. Playing with the flame of a gold lighter, his greetings are warm and familiar.

Known for his large-scale figurative paintings, Cinga Samson’s paintings bring the ethereal into our everyday scenes. Secret, holy and distant, Samson’s figurations are in this world but not of it. A means to investigate the spiritual nodes of desire, power, mortality and transience, the works offer a nuanced picture of contemporary life. Entrusting painted figuration and portraiture as well as a muted, dark colour palette to configure the intangible parts of the tangible world, the artist subtly shares the intricate, layered and often unacknowledged aspects of Black life.

As dear to the artist as it is ambitious, a sum of Samson’s practice requires him to relinquish the control that comes with working in isolation. Leading a core team of nine artists alongside his studio manager, Samson’s approach involves the delicate process of transferring (or projecting) his sensitivities onto his team.

Shortly after settling into the conversation, a handful of people start to make their way into the studio. After a moment of busy noise, the small crowd dispersed to the wall of canvases and onto the scaffolding to paint quietly. “I’m not sure, I think there’s just under twenty people working with me right now,” explains Samson.

Although his core team comprises nine upcoming artists, he has had to call on more hands for the project he is currently working on. Right now, there are about eight large scale and a handful of small scale works being attended to because the artist has always worked on bodies of work in their entirety instead of on one work at a time. “As time went by I could see that I needed help based on how ambitious I was becoming. But my ambition isn’t a good excuse to delay deadlines. It’s important that I honour the conversations that I have with curators, gallerists and museums so the works need to be finished at a specific time,” is his justification. Emphasising the importance of being able to work with a team, the artist says this has brought him the gift of increased security in his practice. “I need to trust what I want to put on surfaces and out in the world in order to ask people to help me make it happen.”



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Ruth Ige. Don't hide your glory, 2022.
Acrylic on canvas. 122 x 122cm. (© Copyright 2022, STEVENSON. All rights reserved)