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 patterning. With a background in theatre and film, Viktor combines painting, photography and performance in luxurious portraits of powerful women.

  • 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
  • Solo show, Dark Testament at Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm, 2020 – 2021
  • Solo show, Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter at Autograph, London, 2019 – 2020

The works reference ancient histories from Greek mythology, the Egyptians, and the Nubians, as well as 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. Thus, through her works, Viktor brings the precious metal back to these sacred roots — pulling old traditions into her own futuristic vision. 


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Lina Iris Viktor, Syzygy, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.
Lina Iris Viktor, Yaa Asantewaa, 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 many different characters that she plays. For example, in Yaa Asantewaa (2016) the artist homages the warrior queen of the same name from the Ashanti Empire. Her face painted in inky black, and her 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 rich cultural affluence of the African continent with historic specificity and nuance. Yet, at the same time, its mesmerising patterns and lustrous texture call to a more universal form of spiritual transcendence, both of and beyond the stories it tells.

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

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 adding bold gold-leaf patterns 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 lush and intricate canvases, Viktor poses philosophical questions about the nature of light and dark, black and gold, life and death.

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