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Solid Gold! The Exhibition You Must See Lina Iris Viktor Talks to Alt Africa on Black Exodus

Solid Gold! The Exhibition You Must See Lina Iris Viktor Talks to Alt Africa on Black Exodus

Lina Iris Viktor is a conceptual artist, performance artist, and painter. She lives and works between New York and London.

Raised in London to Liberian parents, she traveled extensively in her youth, also living in Johannesburg, South Africa for many years. The multi-disciplinary approach to her work, which weaves disparate materials and methods belonging both to contemporary and ancient art forms, calls into question the nature of time and being. Her works are a merging 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” in the form of symbols and intricate patterns. Viktor regards these dark canvases to be “light-works”. Each provoke a philosophical commentary through material that at once addresses the infinite and the finite, immortality and mortality, the microcosm and macrocosm, in addition to the socio-political and historical preconceptions surrounding ‘blackness’ and its universal implications.


Q: What is the inspiration for Black Exodus?

I wanted to renegotiate the definitions, stereotypes, and misrepresentations of “blackness”. I posited the question, what if this thing called “blackness” which is the birth of all things on a universal level – the materia prima no longer existed? A mass exodus of “blackness” which can be fragmented down to our notions of blackness surrounding race. If there were a black exodus, what would remain? That is the loose framework

Q: Why did you use the colours you have chosen for this exhibition?

Instinct, aesthetic, the compositional values that are inherent in each, and the emotive and visceral reaction they evoke.

Q: The contrast between black and gold make a bold statement, what is it meant to convey?

It has both universal and socio-political implications. They are both prime/source materials and values, among the building blocks of civilization and our universe. They are the essential.

Q: How does your travels influence your work?

Immensely. Experience stimulates creation – personal experience and the communal experience. Travel highlights, compounds, and clarifies the experiences and concepts that filter into my work.

Q: When did you realize that you had this talent?

Not quite sure how to answer that. Don’t think I have realized that yet – believing in your “greatness” is the death knell of being true to your practice, art, and creativity. It stops you from pushing, makes you complacent. I never want to be that.

Q: Syzygy is a stunning piece how long did it take?

Arguably, any work an artist makes is the product of a lifetime of accruing, digesting, and filtering information. So as is true for every work at every point of creation, I would say it took my entire life to make. Production time can be slow or quick, but I think that factor is not the relevant one.

Q: Constellation III what is the story behind this piece?

All the Constellation works (of which there will be 11 in total once I have completed the cycle) are the symbologies and cosmologies that have existed from ancient cultures until now that are indicative of our understanding of the universe. The symbols are universal and transcend time and location. The more you study ancient cultures, or modern-day cultures that continue to live in accordance with nature around them, the more you see the cross-referencing, overlapping, and shared experiences that transcend the western contemporary constructs of linear time and space. Cultures as far ranging as the Indigenous Australians, to those existing in Mesoamerica, to the Dogon of Mali, the Benin Empire, the Asante Empire, The Kongo Empire, the Ancient Egyptians and Nubians et al. The symbolic languages employed in their art and modes of language and expression have more similarities than differences. I use a noble metal, an immortal metal inlaid into blackness – they are all variations of the microcosm and macrocosm of existence through the lens of many cultures and histories throughout time.

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Q: How much has your work changed if at all since your first exhibition?

My work is all a natural progression and builds upon previous ideas, concepts, narrative. Anyone who has witnessed the progression since I began exhibiting in 2014 will see that my work is far more free and layered.

Q: What is your favourite city?

I don’t have a favourite city. I have many places that I love for reasons – some nostalgic and others because of the discoveries I have yet to make. I recently was in Mexico City & Cuernavaca and had a transcendent experience – in my recent travels that has been my favourite place thus far. Second to that would-be Havana, Cuba.

Q: What is next for you?

More travel and exploration hopefully. I have upcoming solo shows in New York and New Orleans, and will also be participating in next year’s Manifesta Biennial in Palermo, Italy. I am planning Black Exodus Act II & III in different cities over the next 2 years ending on the Continent.