The Impenetrable Stare of Cinga Samson

Cinga Samson’s work almost seems to be staring back at you. But in a way that, he says, is more similar to making you “feel that it is aware of your presence.” They’re self-portraits, where Samson hopes to share his own journey and have others resonate with that, but the empty gray eyes imply an anonymous impenetrability. This emptiness could therefore be anyone. He aims to restore the dignity of Africans through strong gazes and somber scenes. Starting his career at a nondescript artist organization in South Africa called the Isibane Creative Arts studio, his passion for recognizing the young black voice blossomed. In those voices he found himself, and in the below interview we find out more about who he is. The final product is introspective but relatable. Be sure to check out his show at Perrotin gallery from February 22 – April 11, 2020 that we reviewed a while back. Please note, the gallery is by appointment only at this time.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
Tell us a  little about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did art first enter your life?

I am a Cape Town-based artist who came from the Eastern Cape (rural area of South Africa). I came to Cape Town in 2006 to do something about my life, such as study law, but I ended up coming across a local art studio in 2007, which had 3 painters Xolile Mtakatya, Gerald Tabata and the late Luthando Laphuwano. I saw what they were doing and I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That was the beginning of my life as full-time artist.

Has your work always taken on the style it currently embodies? 
No, over the years I have practiced different techniques. Only in 2015 did I seemed to find an approach that was constant, but before then, I had many phases.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
Have you always painted in the style your work currently inhabits?
No, I have painted in different ways at different times, but my passion has always been painting.
From where do you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from stories of people who prevailed; those who have beaten the odds and brought change and did good. I paint because I am obsessed. I want to satisfy the urge that I have, and I don’t know what is the source of it, but I am obsessed with painting my ideas and I feel like I can’t stop.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
What is your preferred material?
I mostly use oil on canvas.
Does your work reference any Art Historical movements?
I don’t think so,  but if it does it’s not intended.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
What is your process like? How do you begin a work?
My work starts with a feeling. It could be more than one feeling, like the feeling of beauty and terror, sometimes desire and vulnerability. From there, it develops in to an image that I want to portray. I normally ask a photographer to shoot me or a group in my fabricated environment or setup and then go from there.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
What’s a day in the studio like for you? 
The studio opens at 9 AM,  and the work process is occasionally very dry. Oftentimes, it is straightforward between me and my assistant, and the music we play manages to keep things exciting, even though we look forward to lunchtime at 12 o’clock, and midnight is usually when we put our brushes down. I find this process fulfilling such that my time in the studio feels meaningful.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
How have past accolades such as the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts impacted your career thus far?
After more than a decade of hard work, it felt good to be acknowledged. Though, I’m not certain of its impact on those that are watching my practice, and those who are involved in it.
What’s next for you?
For six months I have been working on a solo show that will be at Perrotin Gallery in New York and I am truly excited about that. I believe I have exciting works to show there and I look forward to the reaction.
Courtesy of Perrotin New York
At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?
There is a young artist, a 24-year-old, from Jamaica. Taffare Crawford, he is not famous but you can get ahold of him on Instagram.