Sam King Interview
What got Sam King invested in the art field?
I came from an artistic family and had some supportive teachers at school that opened up this option to me and pushed me to explore it. However, I became invested in the art field when my activity in graffiti began to blend with a desire to create images, and I started to make street art. Following this, I became genuinely interested in other forms such as painting, photography, etc.
What is your favorite type of music?
I listen to various forms of music. However, I like music that is atmospheric and takes you onto a journey, or puts you into a different space, perhaps much like the art I attain to create. Atmospheric/Techno/Trance helps to get me in the zone for painting, but I am also listening to some South-American influenced electronica at the moment.
Why oil painting as a medium of choice?
I have only been using oils for a few years. However, they have quickly become my favorite medium for their ability to be continuously blended and reworked, and the deep finish they give. I like to be able to handle paint thickly using impasto technique, and oils are well suited to this. They have sensuous materiality that seems to mimic the flesh of the body, which is the sensation that I mostly intend to convey in my work. Finally, oils have a long and settled history in Western art, therefore using them opens up this conversation with the past in which I attempt to subvert its principles in various ways.
What are you trying to convey with your artwork? leaving aside that art is being interpreted by the viewer
My practice investigates issues about our inner nature: notions of being and the relationship between the body and the self. I am concerned with what it means to be a human being, and what it means to live authentically. I feel we have become disconnected to our authentic nature through increased categorization, capitalization, and digitization in the modern world, and I wish to confront the viewer with their material existence, whether this is a euphoric or anxiety-filled experience. We are increasingly numbed and sterilized to real feeling, and I think this is a significant issue that underpins so many of humanities misdirected choices and decisions, both on a personal and social level. Therefore, it is this that I want the viewer to experience, to feel (themselves) deeply.
I believe that this authentic understanding of existence – If there can be any –lies somewhere within the paradox of being a body/self intertwined, so this is what I choose to recreate. Writers such as Amelia Jones, Merleu-Ponty and Sartre have been significant influences for me on this subject.
It is not my aim to resolve the relationship between body and self, but rather to investigate its fluidity and contingency. By simultaneously inviting and denying identification, my work aims to provide triggers in which normative notions of identity can be confronted to encourage self-reflexivity.
What type of experiences do you think to affect your body of work?
My work draws on psychological experiences, those that are related to deep feelings and sensations of the body and mind. I am trying to convey that intense sensation of the paradox of being an embodied consciousness. This includes feelings of transcendence as well as base desires. I am also attempting to consider collective psychological experiences, drawing on the anxiety of contemporary existence to drive for a more embodied, haptic experience.
Why use the figure as your subject matter?
I would argue that there is nothing which penetrates us on the same level of sensation as the body. When dealing with questions of being, it is impossible to escape from it. As physical beings, it is difficult for us to imagine the self without its visible –corporeal- form. Likewise, our use of representation reveals our desire for the image to render up the body and thereby person in some respect, to immortalize it, to make it live beyond our lifespan.
The figure is where the immaterial and material realities meet; it is never fixed in its significance but always in process and contingent. Furthermore, the paradox of the body is that while it is our way of being in the world, our subject-expression, it is also the way others see us, so it makes us objects for them. Therefore it is fetishized in some respect, which we see everywhere from classical figure painting to modern advertising. By breaking down this idealized body, I feel I can deconstruct its stereotyped nature and access its true essence. By interpreting the body as a site where meaning is produced, I attempt to pose questions about our existence as human beings.
You incorporate abstraction and surrealism, and abjection in your figures, what’s the reason behind this practice?
Surrealism has been an influence on me in some respects due to its harnessing of the unknown and the inner world. I draw on this mental focus, but I am more concerned with creating works that thoughtfully reflect ourselves, rather than something that is bizarre as such.
The use of abjection in my paintings attempts to reveal the contingency of existence. By removing characteristics of the figure that would otherwise allow it to be seen as a fully formed subject, but still retaining its human-ness through like-life representation and movement, the figures are left in a limbo state between subject and non-subject. Resultantly, they fuel the viewer’s projection of their desires and fears onto the figures due to their indeterminacy, causing awareness of their relation to the figure and their own body and self.
The use of abstraction is used as a breaking down of elements of reality, whether that be spatial, representational or physical. This is all intended to isolate the figure in a non-representational space to highlight the existence and presence of the flesh. This helps to encompass and pull the viewer into the world where the figure exists.
There seems to be a lot of psychological hints in your pieces; this is by glancing at the color scheme, why?
I believe that color can directly affect the nervous system in a way that words can’t. Colour can have force. Therefore, I juxtapose color aimed to mimic the actual sensations of the body, with desaturated elements that allude to the pictoral and inactive. This is to create a visual conversation between ideas of being and non-being, life and death, fullness and nothingness.
What art movements inspire you the most?
I have drawn influences from various sources. However, in terms of movements, I am inspired most prominently by Baroque painters. I directly utilize the chiaroscuro techniques of the Old Masters aimed to encourage a visceral sense of veneration and awe. Unlike their ideal of a divinely inspired, biographically coherent subject –e.g., a religious figure –, I distort this agenda, fragmenting and abjecting the body. The result is a work that is shaped by indeterminacy, situated at a juncture between the realms of sacred and profane. By borrowing on the techniques and aura of this classical style of painting, I aim to subvert the art historical master and deconstruct the disciplined body of art history.
Your photographic work has the same style as your oil paintings, which is impressive; how well do you think your style transfers to other mediums?
Thanks! I try to expose this sense of fragility across both mediums. Slow-exposure photography because of its capacity to reveal and unfold through time as lived is one of my primary sources for paintings, so there has been much crossover. I think we have become normalized to viewing snapshot photographs as real depictions of the world, but this isn’t actually how humans experience reality.
I have done experimentation in other mediums such as sculpture, video, and installation, which I would like to explore further. I think that one can run into difficulties when moving across mediums, especially when you spend a lot of time training in one medium, you can feel like a beginner all over again! I would particularly like to try out sculpture again soon and to build a narrative throughout different mediums.
What is next for Sam King?
I finished studying Fine Art in London last July. I had some good news recently about one of my paintings – Into Liminality –, which won the popular vote at the LSM Art Award, and another earlier this year – Descension (Part 1) – which won the Jorge Aguilar Student Artist Award. Now I will continue to base myself in London for the near future at least, forming a new body of work. I hope to organize a show at some point over the next months, although I am still looking for a space for that!
Other than that, I will enter opportunities that appeal to me, keep feeding my mind with new ideas, and do the things that inspire me.