Sam King – The artwork as gateway into self-reflexivity

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Sam King – Descension IV

I am a British Artist, recently graduated from The Art Academy in London, where I continue to base myself. I work predominately across the mediums of painting and photography, although I do make explorations into other mediums occasionally. My practice investigates issues pertaining to our inner nature: notions of being and the relationship between the body and the self. I am concerned with questions of meaning and authenticity, particularly within a contemporary world so emptied of these qualities, and so my work attempts to confront the viewer with the sensations or feelings of existence.


How does your work relate to the theme “The Mind”?

My work examines the mind in relationship to its physical container – the body –, distorting, abjecting and disrupting it in order to solicit visceral reactions within the viewer. I am opposed to traditional Western philosophical separation of mind and body and attempt to reconnect them within my works, exposing the contingency of the mind on the body, as well as onto other bodies. In an age in which ‘the mind’ is displaced across multiple possible realities (ie. the internet), I attempt to reconnect the viewer with the physical embodiment of existence.

What is self-reflexivity?

To me, self-reflexivity is the act of introspective consideration. It is to reflect on our self and consider what it is or rather how it appears, how it is enacted in the world and what it feels to be that self. In my practice, beyond solely presenting the viewer with an image that is separate from them, it is my aim to provide triggers in which normative notions of identity can be confronted in order to encourage self-reflexivity. I think there are different ways to self-reflect as such, as self-reflection is related to self-awareness. Obviously, self-reflexivity can be conscious reflection on one’s thoughts or actions, but I think other forms of self-reflexivity can also be in the form of experiencing one’s psyche, whether through something such as meditation or inward experience, or something collective such as ritual.

Please describe one piece – the aims, process, outcomes etc.

Sam King – Into Liminality

A difficult one! There have been quite a few works within 2018 that I put significant thought into, however I would like to describe my work ‘Into Liminality’, which went on to win an award in the later part of the year (The LSM Art Award). Many of my works divide monochrome and coloured tones within the same section of the body, as a way to complicate readings of the body/self as active or passive, alive or dead. Within this work I took this further and divided the work into two separate colour areas, within a spatial organisation. The painting is of three elements: a figure, a chasm, and a monolith. The figure appears active due to its movement towards the hole, and physical presence.

Yet it loses its subjectivity through the removal of the head and monochrome palette which pushes it back into a spectral state, limiting the viewers capacity to identify with it as a human presence. This is complicated further by the impasto application of saturated oil paint in the chasm, which while not figural, stands in for the active sensations of the body. The spatial arrangement refers to a void or non-space, empty yet also full.

The monolith in the background completes the work, giving depth to the work and further insinuating a breakdown between materiality and immateriality. These elements play off against each other, drawing the viewers eye around the canvas and forcing them to feel this contradiction of active and passive elements. The resulting work addresses the contingency and indeterminacy of human existence, dealing with concepts of creation and destruction, being and non-being, fullness and nothingness.

What has art taught you about your own mind?

The reflective process needed to create a resounding piece of work teaches you to be deeply reflective about your psyche, to reflect critically with intense patience. It also teaches you to disregard, or nullify something that you have poured much emotional energy into up to the last moment; which teaches you a lot about the catharsis of life, not to be passive, to emotionally engage in the world around you, but to let go when the time is right.

Art has also allowed me to further explore the notion of trance states, through which I think authentic being emerges. These flow states have been of importance to me throughout my life in various areas, such as dance, psychedelic experiences or surfing. I believe the process of creating art can allow one to enter into one of these flow states. Similarly, the act of viewing a work of art, whether visual, sensual or aural can also allow for this same experience.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks Matt for providing these questions to reflect on this subject in relation to my work. It’s great to hear from other people concerned with pushing the same awareness back into society.

Find Sam here:


#17 – The Mind – Contributors