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Lina Iris Viktor: Some are Born to Endless Night – Dark Matter at Autograph

Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter

Exhibition preview

AUTOGRAPH has announced the first major solo exhibition in the UK from Liberian-British artist Lina Iris Viktor. Entitled Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter, it will be on display from September 13, 2019 to January 25, 2020.

The immersive exhibition features more than 60 new and existing works on display in two galleries, including an artist commission created for Autograph.

Key pieces from Viktor’s ongoing Dark Continent series, alongside a selection of unique paintings on canvas – including recent works debuted at the New Orleans Museum of Art – will be on show at Autograph. The exhibition will also feature a site-specific installation, The Black Ark.

Viktor’s works across 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. Viktor’s deep, lustrous blacks are punctuated with luminous 24-karat gold and opulent ultramarine blue to create her singular artistic universe.

Across photography, painting and sculptural installations – referencing cultural histories of the global African diaspora – Viktor surveys 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.

Viktor’s Dark Continent (2015 – 19) series, on show in the first gallery, sees the artist work in a further limited black and gold palette. Applied using ancient gilding techniques, gold is both substance and symbol, representing a conduit to spiritual transcendence. A solitary female figure inhabits Viktor’s monochromatic landscapes, illuminated by gilded solar and lunar symbols.

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 others 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’.

In the centre of the gallery, The Black Ark (2018 – 19) invites visitors to move through a site-specific installation of large-scale latticed panels of carved wood, architecturally inspired by the nets of Liberian fisherman and mashrabiyas. Exploring notions of ‘race’, history and ownership, the installation obscures 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 sculptures (Black Botanica, 2019), liberated from the confines of the painted, still image.

Constellations IX (2019) 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. In three variations of Materia Prima, the mother work that inspired the Dark Continent series, Viktor appears as a commanding pan-cultural deity, emanating an aura of power, authority and regality.

The second gallery is painted in deep ultramarine blue, emulating the ‘Blue Room’ in the artist’s studio. A meditative space is built within the gallery featuring Syzygy (2015), Viktor’s first figurative canvas reflecting the aesthetic vernacular the artist has developed over the past four years.

Also on view are three works from A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred (2017 – 18). These works reinterpret the Libyan Sybil, a prophetess from antiquity invoked by eighteenth-century abolitionists as a mythical oracle who foresaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The series explores the extraordinary story of the founding of Liberia to examine fraught narratives of migration, colonialism and oppression.

The works brought together in Some Are Born To Endless Night — Dark Matter constitute a bold reclamation of creative agency, and historical and transcultural reimagining. The exhibition reflects the artist and curator’s shared desire to create an all-immersive, symbiotic environment, in which to engage viewers and provide a transformative experience.

A hardcover artist monograph will accompany the exhibition, edited by curator Renée Mussai with texts by Emmanuel Iduma, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Christina Sharpe, and an in-depth conversation between Lina Iris Viktor and Renée Mussai. The monograph is published by Autograph with the kind support of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago.

For more information visit autograph.org.uk/exhibitions/some-are-born-to-endless-night-dark-matter.

Image: Lina Iris Viktor, II. For Some Are Born to Endless Night. Dark Matter, 2015-9. Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery.

Admission: Free.

Times: Tuesday: 11am – 6pm, Wednesday: 11am – 6pm, Thursday: 11am – 9pm, Friday: 11am – 6pm and Saturday: 12 – 6pm. Closed Monday and Sunday.

Autograph, Rivington Place, London, EC2A 3BA