Ukhe Nje Wasondela, Ndakuphusa Kulo Mlambo

February 7, 2024

Articles, Mandie's Pick

At the end of last year, Gordon Massie gave us an insight into the career of South African artist, Cinga Samson whose trajectory over the past few years in the international art world has been phenomenal. As a successful local artist, his sales in South Africa have been significant but his results have been even more impressive in the major UK and US auction houses where some of his works have achieved record prices with a recent sale standing at US$ 378,000. South African art lovers now have the opportunity of seeing the amazing work of this 37-year-old talent, at Norval Foundation in Cape Town. 

Samson is known for his figurative oil paintings of large-scale group scenes and self-portraits and is recognized for his dark palette, his depictions of figures with pupil-less eyes, and his formal, ceremonious poses, often mysterious and challenging. The paintings also focus on still lives and large-scale landscape paintings in a vernacular unique to the artist. 

His current exhibition, translated from isiXhosa as “If you come close, I’ll throw you into the river”, focuses on a selection of twenty works created between 2015 to 2023 which highlights the painter’s mastery of the medium.  The title serves as an invitation issued in jest to step into Samson’s aesthetic world. “His challenge beckons the viewer to be pushed into the maelstrom of Samson’s River…a river that winds through his mental landscape of reflections”. His world is set against the backdrop of conventional landscape painting and everyday elements of life in South Africa: flora, fauna, and the views of mountains in the background. Together with indigenous bird of paradise flowers and red calla lilies, these beautiful and seemingly innocuous motifs seen to be lifted from classical notions of painting and composition of still lives are, through their inclusion in his work, given new meaning by him. 

Samson was born in Khayelitsha in 1986 and grew up in the rural Eastern Cape where he finished high school before moving back to Cape Town. He first joined the art studio Isibane Creative Arts, a shared artist space followed by the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography. Now represented by the prestigious international gallery, White Cube in London, Samson has had solo exhibitions in London, New York City, and Cape Town and his work has been included in group shows in Amsterdam, Berlin, Norway, and Mexico. Curated by Heba El Kayal, Norval Foundation’s Chief Curatorial Consultant, the exhibition runs until the 1st of September 2024 at Norval Foundation.

Cinga Samson, I saw, then I knew it, 2017, Oil on canvas, 80 x 60 cm
Cinga Samson, Umkhusana 1 (2021), Oil on canvas, 220 x 260 cm