5 questions with the artist: Sam King

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Born in 1995, Sam King is a British artist based in London working on exploring the subjectivity embodied in the digital age. He won the Jorge-Aguilar Artist Awars and the Liberty Art Award in 2019 having been in the shortlist for the ACS Studio Prize in 2020. His tecnique not only includes oil painting but also kneading, burning, cutting and dragging in order to alter and modift the figure and surface.

My work elicits contradictory sensory and emotional responses to reveal the contingent nature of incarnation and the subversive possibilities of representation. By synthesizing alternative interpretations of the body, my practice aims to transgress the experiential boundaries imposed by contemporary culture.

Sam King in his Studio | Courtesy of the artist

Walk us through your academic experience. How do you think your education shaped your career?
I studied at an atelier style school in London. This was quite a-typical for perhaps other undergraduate courses in the UK as it provided training in figurative painting along with practice and professional development however I understood developing these skills was important to me.

What is indispensable while working in your studio?
Definitely audio. I’m almost always listening to something. Whether music to get me in flow or podcasts, I love learning new things while painting.  

Who are your favorite artists and who are the ones that built your creative imaginary?
I tend to look at quite a broad range of artists. Technically my work draws upon the Old Masters. Holbien’s The Ambassadors is one painting that has always fascinated me. However recently I have been most inspired by video artists such as John Rafman or Cao Fei.

Sam King, Phase, 2020 | available here on Artsted

How did COVID-19 impact your way of making art?
Significantly! During the first lockdown, my work changed to explore how subjective experience was increasingly lived within digital realms. For example, in my painting ‘Pietas’, I juxtaposed chiaroscuro figuration with sheen fades and fragmentation of the figure. The portrait works I made during this period - such as ‘Smile’ - drew on stock photos to explore the dissonance between authentic emotion, and the transactional use of emotion in advertising and social media.

Sam King, Don't Let me Go | available here on Artsted

What is your relationship with social media and how do you use them?
This relates to the pandemic and my own work. I have increased my use of social media as have most. There are two sides to it, one which allows us to forge relationships and connect while being physically apart (the utopian potential of digital media), and the other that forces us into distraction and polarization (the dystopian potential of social media). The internet now being controlled by a small number of mega corporations (Facebook, Google etc) is very different from the early vision as a revolutionary space. However if we are conscious about it I still think it can enable human development.

Written by
Anna Frattini