Dark, golden and multilayered – a symbolistic exhibition by Lina Iris Viktor in Fotografiska
From 21st February Fotografiska Tallinn exhibits the works of British-Liberian conceptal artist Lina Iris Viktor. Her art combines photography, painting, performance and sculpture with ancient gilding techniques. Photos in exhibition Dark Testament are intricate, densely layered surfaces with a restricted colour palette, characterised by the use of 24-karat gold leaf.
Lina Iris Viktor’s extraordinary black and gold works are infused with complex histories of the African diaspora. The artist explores the cultural, historical and material implications and multifaceted nations of ‘blackness’: as colour, value and socio-political consciousness. For her, black is conjured as a deeply generative force: the proverbial materia prima, the source, the dark matter that birthed everything. Gold is both symbol and substance, a spiritual conduit of transcendence.
Renée Mussai, the curator of the exhibition, says that the core of Lina Iris Viktor’s singular artistic practice is complex, cultural narratives and potent mediations on ‘blackness and being’.
“Each sumptuous work is layered with profound provocations, fuelled by her astute interest in etymology, astrophysics and remedial recovery. In a productive equilibrium between aesthetics and politics, history is creatively reimagined through an emphasis on the circularity of time, and an affirmative, visionary excavation of our collective pasts and possible futures.”
The conceptual practice of the artist draws on a variety of artistic traditions and visual influences from European portraiture, classical mythology and astronomy, to ancient Egyptian and African symbolism.
Lina Iris Viktor deploys her own body in her figurative works, her body-as-canvas is abstracted through lustres of black and centred as the universal human form – a vessel through which narratives are woven.
“The works of the exhibition create an all-immersive universe and symbolic environment that engages the viewers with a transformative experience. It makes the viewers think deeply about both historical and transcultural myths,” describes the Exhibitions Lead of Fotografiska Tallinn Maarja Loorents. “There’s an absolute beauty and depth in black. Blackness as a source, the dark matter that birthed everything – as Lina Iris Viktor has said herself.”
Exhibition’s different series Dark Continent, Seven and Act I, II, III is an imaginary riposte to the nineteenth-century myth of Africa as the ‘dark continent’, a sinister place of danger and chaos. Viktor invites viewers to contemplate the meaning of darkness and light, through a communion of past, present and future tenses. Accompanied by an extended caption-poem of exquisite, redolent image titles, the series’ existential questions remain unanswered.
The travelling exhibition Dark Testament, presented in collaboration with Autograph (London) and Fotografiska, is in Fotografiska Tallinn from 21st February to 10th May.