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Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter

Highlights from Viktor's acclaimed exhibition at Autograph

Autograph's 2020 hardcover monograph published to accompany Lina Iris Viktor's exhibition Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, edited by curator Renée Mussaihas won the 2021 British Book Awards in the Exhibition Catalogue category. To celebrate, we have released limited copies of the book and posters signed by the artist in our online shop, and are sharing highlights from our acclaimed exhibition here.

The British-Liberian artist’s first major solo exhibition in the UK took place at Autograph's gallery in 2019-20, and featured more than 60 works on display across two galleries – many seen for the first time, including a site-specific architectural installation. Viktor's photography, painting and sculptures are infused with cultural histories of the global African diaspora and preoccupied with 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.



“Lina Iris Viktor’s magnificent work centres the black figure as the universal human form through which narratives are woven, histories entwined and possible futures imagined

— Ren
ée Mussai, Curator



Viktor often deploys her body in her conceptual art practice, the sole performer in a meticulously crafted cosmology. Combining photography, performance, painting and sculpture with ancient gilding techniques, she creates intricate, densely layered surfaces characterised by her ritualistic use of 24-karat gold leaf. The exhibition reflected the artist and curator’ shared desire to create an all-immersive, symbiotic environment, in which to engage viewers and provide a transformative experience.

No. XXVI REFUGE FROM THE AFTERMATH ... A RECKONING TO COME. From the series Dark Continent — Act III: The Wake, 2018-19

Viktor’s large works on 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. 

Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, installation view at Autograph

 The works displayed in the first gallery were exclusively black and gold, ranging from small works on paper to large-scale canvas works – many made exclusively for the exhibition and seen for the first time.

No. IX, RECALL, THE GOLD SIFTED FROM DIRT ... From the series DARK CONTINENT I – XII GENESIS, 2016

More than 50 works from Viktor’s Dark Continent series dominated the gallery space: its solitary female figure visualised in a monochromatic landscape illuminated by gilded solar and lunar symbols.

No. XVI COUNTER MEMORIES OF THE HEALER. From the series DARK CONTINENT XIII - XXIV THE FALL, 2017

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 other times 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’.

We Dream of Primordial Futures. Deo Optimo Maximo. From the series Dark Continent: The Seven, 2015-19

"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."
— Renée Mussai, Curator

We are the Night — The Keepers of Light, From the series Dark Continent: Dark Testament, 2015-19

In 2019, Autograph commissioned four new unique works on paper by the artist for the exhibition Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter. Entitled Dark Testament, they form part of her ongoing Dark Continent series.

After the long sleep we now wake ... From the series Dark Continent: Dark Testament, 2015-19

These new works have now entered Autograph's collection, which reflects our mission: to use photography and lens based media to explore questions of cultural identity, race, representation, human rights and social justice.

Dark Testament commission, installation view at Autograph

From left to right
I After the long sleep we now wake ...
II Our Re-memories — sheer acts of Rebellion
III For a time we hid from ourselves. Our Dark Testament

II. For Some Are Born to Endless Night. Dark Matter. From the series Dark Continent: The Seven, 2015-19

Two new, large works in the Dark Continent series were created for the exhibition and shown for the first time.

Constellation IX, 2019, installation view at Autograph

Constellations IX foregrounds 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. It was exhibited with a backdrop of artist-designed flora from the Dark Continent series.

The Black Ark, installation view at Autograph

In the centre of the gallery, The Black Ark invited visitors to move through a site-specific installation of large-scale latticed panels of carved wood, an architectural structure inspired by the nets of Liberian fisherman and mashrabiyas.

Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, installation view at Autograph

Exploring notions of ‘race’, history and ownership, The Black Ark installation obscured 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 floor and wall based sculptures (Black Botanica), liberated from the confines of the painted, still image.

Materia Prima III, 2019

In three variations of Materia Prima, the original ‘mother’ work on canvas that inspired the Dark Continent series, the artist appears as a commanding pan-cultural deity, emanating an aura of power, authority and regality.

Materia Prima I-III, installation view at Autograph

The third work (right) to complete the triptych was made especially for the exhibition, and exhibited for the first time.



Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter at Autograph, installation view featuring Syzygy

The second gallery was painted in deep ultramarine blue, emulating the ‘Blue Room’ in the artist’s former New York studio. An enclosed meditative space was built within the gallery holding only one work: Syzygy, Viktor’s first figurative canvas that reflects the particular aesthetic vernacular the artist developed over four years’ of dedicated practice.

Syzygy, 2015

"Syzygy is an astronomical term, which means the perfect alignment of the sun, moon and stars in a straight line"
— Lina Iris Viktor

First, from the series A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred, 2017-18

The other three works shown in the ultramarine blue gallery form part of a series that reinterprets the Libyan Sybil, a prophetess from antiquity invoked by eighteenth-century abolitionists as a mythical oracle who foresaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Eleventh, from the series A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred, 2018

The series explores the extraordinary story of the founding of Liberia to examine fraught narratives of migration, colonialism and oppression. 

Third, from the series A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred, 2017-18

"Red, white and blue combined evoke the colours of the American and Liberian flags: the associated iconographies of both nations."
— Lina Iris Viktor

Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, installation view at Autograph

The remarkable art works brought together in Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter constitute a bold reclamation of creative agency, and the crucial praxis of historical and transcultural reimagining. Her most expansive solo exhibition to date, it was a pleasure and a privilege to work closely with one of the most exciting conceptual artists working today to present her work to London.


about the artist

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Lina Iris Viktor

Lina Iris Viktor lives and works itinerantly between Italy, 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. Often 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’.

Her work is held in the public collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC; the Crocker Museum of Fine Art, Sacramento, California; Autograph, London; and many private collections worldwide.

Visit Viktor's website and follow the artist on Instagram.

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Curatorial introduction texts © Renée Mussai.

Banner image: II. For Some Are Born to Endless Night. Dark Matter [detail]. From the series Dark Continent: The Seven, 2015-19. © Lina Iris Viktor and courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

Image gallery credits: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16-19) © Lina Iris Viktor and courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery. 6, 7) © Lina Iris Viktor. Commissioned by Autograph. 2, 8, 10-12, 14, 15, 20: Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, exhibition at Autograph, London. 13 September - 25 January 2020. Curated by Renée Mussai. Photographs courtesy Ben Reeves.

Image gallery quotes from Dark Sublime: The Value of Blackness, Renée Mussai in conversation with Lina Iris Viktor. Published in Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, 2020. Edited Renée Mussai, published by Autograph. 

About the artist image: Lina Iris Viktor at the opening night of Lina Iris Viktor: Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, at Autograph, London. Photograph by Zoë Maxwell.