Lina Iris Viktor

British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor uses ancient iconography and opulent colour palettes to ask what light and dark really mean.

Viktor is a multi-disciplinary artist known for her striking compositions that contrast deep black and lapis against thick, 24-karat gold-leaf. With a background in theatre and film, Viktor combines painting, photography and performance to create luxurious portraits of powerful women.

  • Dark Testament, solo show at Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm, 2020/21
  • Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter solo show at Autograph, London, 2019/20
  • Work in collections inc. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; Crocker Museum of Fine Art, Sacramento, California; Spelman College of Fine Art, Atlanta; Autograph, London

Her works reference the ancient histories of the Egyptians and Nubians, as well as Greek mythology and multiple empires from across Central and West Africa. The artist is also inspired by mathematics and astrophysics, as well as modernist painters like Yves Klein and Malian photographer Seydou Keïta. Using traditional gilding techniques to create her works, gold is central to Viktor’s practice. “Modernity has devalued gold to a commodity, but previously it was heralded for its spiritual value,” she says. Through her work, Viktor returns the precious metal back to these sacred roots — drawing old traditions into her own futuristic vision.


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Syzygy, Lina Iris Viktor, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.
Yaa Asantewaa, Lina Iris Viktor, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

Viktor often uses her own body in her art. However, she does not see the works as self-portraits, but instead as a series of different characters who she plays. For example, in Yaa Asantewaa (2016) the artist homages the warrior queen of the same name from the Ashanti Empire. Face painted inky black, body poised and defiant, Viktor challenges societal and historical ideas of blackness through the pure materiality of the colour itself. Thus, the ornate portrait embodies the cultural affluence of the African continent with historic specificity and nuance. At the same time, its mesmerising patterns and lustrous textures speak to a more universal form of spiritual transcendence — both of and beyond the stories it tells.

“To me, the relationship between black and gold is a very natural conversation… they are siblings.”
Constellations I , Lina Iris Viktor, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.
lina iris viktor prima
Materia Prima II, Lina Iris Viktor,2017-2018. Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

Viktor uses a complex and methodical process to create her works. For her figurative compositions, she starts by photographing her own body. The photographic prints are then layered with pigment before bold gold-leaf patterns are added on top. Resin or lacquer is then applied to the surface to create different sheens of black. Viktor calls her art “light-works,” referring to their symbolic use of extreme contrasting colours. Via her canvases, Viktor deftly poses philosophical questions as to the nature of black and gold, light and dark, life and death.

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