Lina Iris Viktor exhibition: Some are Born to Endless Night — Dark Matter

10 September 2019


Open: 13 September 2019 – 25 January 2020. Location: London

Autograph in London will host the first major solo exhibition in the UK from Liberian-British artist Lina Iris Viktor. The exhibition will feature more than 60 new and existing works, including an artist commission created for Autograph.

Key pieces from Viktor’s ongoing Dark Continent series, alongside a selection of unique paintings on canvas – including recent works debuted at the New Orleans Museum of Art, will be on show at Autograph. The exhibition will also feature a site-specific installation, The Black Ark.

Viktor’s works across paper and canvas draw on a variety of artistic traditions and visual influences, from European portraiture, classical mythology and astronomy, to ancient Egyptian and African symbolism. Viktor’s deep, lustrous blacks are punctuated with luminous 24-karat gold and opulent ultramarine blue to create her singular artistic universe. Across photography, painting and sculptural installations - referencing cultural histories of the global African diaspora - Viktor surveys multifaceted notions of blackness: as colour, as material and as socio-political consciousness. To Viktor, black is the proverbial materia prima: the source, the dark matter that birthed everything.

In the first gallery Viktor’s Dark Continent (2015-19), sees the artist work in a further limited black and gold palette. A solitary female figure inhabits Viktor’s monochromatic landscapes, illuminated by gilded solar and lunar symbols. The figure is the artist’s own form, her body shrouded in deep, matt black paint, her hair golden. At times contemplative and elusive, at others provocative and alluring, these works represent an imaginary riposte to imperial narratives of empire and expansion, and the nineteenth-century myth of Africa as the ‘dark continent’. 

The Black Ark (2018-19) invites visitors to move through a site-specific installation of large-scale latticed panels of carved wood, architecturally inspired by the nets of Liberian fisherman and mashrabiyas. Exploring notions of ‘race’, history and ownership, the installation obscures some artworks while highlighting others, making them in the artist’s words ‘at once visible and obfuscated’. The darkened, tropical foliage of the Dark Continent series reappears here as sculptures (Black Botanica, 2019), liberated from the confines of the painted, still image. 

Constellations IX (2019) highlights the artist’s interest in the coded languages of abstraction. In this elaborately gilded canvas, a maze of signs and intricate imagery alludes to subliminal, universal modes of communication beyond the restrictive boundaries of language, evoking more visceral forms of expression. In three variations of Materia Prima, the mother work that inspired the Dark Continent series, Viktor appears as a commanding pan-cultural deity, emanating an aura of power, authority and regality. 

The second gallery is painted in deep ultramarine blue, emulating the ‘Blue Room’ in the artist’s studio. A meditative space is built within the gallery featuring Syzygy (2015), Viktor’s first figurative canvas reflecting the aesthetic vernacular the artist has developed over the past four years. Also on view are three works from A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred (2017-18)These works reinterpret the Libyan Sybil, a prophetess from antiquity invoked by eighteenth-century abolitionists as a mythical oracle who foresaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The series explores the extraordinary story of the founding of Liberia to examine fraught narratives of migration, colonialism and oppression.

The works brought together in Some Are Born To Endless Night —Dark Matter constitute a bold reclamation of creative agency, and historical and transcultural reimagining. The exhibition reflects the artist and curator’s shared desire to create an all-immersive, symbiotic environment, in which to engage viewers and provide a transformative experience. 

"At the core of Lina Iris Viktor’s distinctive practice are complex, cultural narratives and potent mediations on blackness and being: every single one of Viktor’s sumptuous works is layered with profound provocations on history and culture, fuelled by her astute interest in etymology, astrophysics and remedial recovery. In a productive tension between aesthetics and politics, history is creatively reimagined through an emphasis on the circularity of time, and an affirmative excavation of our collective pasts." - Renée Mussai, Curator


About Lina Iris Viktor

Lina Iris Viktor lives and works itinerantly between New York and London. Raised in London to Liberian parents, she travelled extensively in her youth, and also lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, for several years. Viktor’s multifaceted practice is informed by a background in theatre and film at Sarah Lawrence College, New York, and her continued studies in photography and design at The School of Visual Arts, along with an education in performance arts during high school. Working with a restricted colour palette, her artworks are a blend of photography, performance and abstract painting, along with the ancient practice of gilding with 24-karat gold to create increasingly dark canvases embedded with ‘layers of light’. 


Rivington Place,


Picture copyright: Lina Iris Viktor, II. For Some Are Born to Endless Night. Dark Matter., 2015-9 Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.