The contemporary art house White Cube Mason’s Yard is pleased to present “Nzulu yemfihlakalo“, an exhibition of new series of works by contemporary artist Cinga Samson. On show until August 26, 2023, this artistic presentation immerses the art space in a disturbingly funereal and mysterious atmosphere.
Born in 1986 in Cape Town, South Africa, Cinga Samson resides and works in his hometown from his studio, where he created the oil paintings for his exhibition “Nzulu yemfihlakalo“, whose title was borrowed from an isiXhosa expression that loosely translates as “the depth of mystery“. This term is used to express worship, while also serving as a description of God. The complexity of this title, as well as its equally convoluted meaning, informs each of the works in the exhibition. Immersed in hyperrealism and the phantasmagorical, Cinga Samson‘s canvases provoke an encounter with the unknown and give substance to the immaterial abstract realms that impact our mortal existence. In his artistic practice, he addresses vast concerns and draws inspiration from his immediate environment to create chimerical portraits and large-scale paintings.
In his creations, Cinga Samson depicts mysterious figures frequently appearing with objects or mementos mori, including inanimate bodies, animal entrails, skulls, white lace and raw meat, engaging in ceremonies that are, to say the least, secret. The white, empty pupils of the figures conjure up an image at odds with reality, as if they were evading the viewer’s intriguing gaze. The figures painted by Cinga Samson, dressed in contemporary outfits, are depicted in an urban, natural and surrounding space that is a combination of landmarks and features from Cape Town.
Thus, some of the works feature cityscapes or locations as backdrops, such as the imposing left slope of Table Mountain, while others include simple details referring to the artist’s country of origin, such as bunches of proteas, South Africa’s national flower. Cinga Samson integrates these elements to anchor her paintings in the physical reality of this world.
However, a number of atypical characters emerge from her creations and give concrete expression to this inflected universe torn between realism and dream. The Cimmerian darkness of the scenes visualized in her paintings, combined with the mysterious context of the actions performed and the absence of temporal reference, evokes a sacrifice or an alms-giving through which the artist seeks to grasp the space between the precariousness of life and the unsuspected eternal, as well as the possible existence of a parallel world with a gloomy, disconcerting atmosphere.
Cinga Samson continues her artistic intrigue with her solo portraits, which naturally impose a certain almost oppressive presence in the art gallery. Always with an empty gaze and dressed according to modern standards, the artist’s portraits capture visitors’ attention with the quiet assurance that emanates from their image. They establish a certain symmetry between timelessness and contemporaneity, while reflecting Cinga Samson‘s tangled impressions of spirituality, masculinity and status.
The “Nzulu yemfihlakalo” exhibition features works of unsettling natural authority that plunge the White Cube Mason’s Yard art gallery into a dark, mysterious and bewitching atmosphere. Subjected to the inquisitive gaze of viewers, these artistic creations invite them to assess the epistemological limits of their material understanding of human existence.