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  • Overview

     

    Scintillating like a starry night, Lina Iris Viktor’s Constellations III is an entrancing abstract composition mingling traditional media with luminous passages of 24 karat gold. With its gleaming patterns and lustrous intricacies, the painting feels like a monumental gem — a painterly jewel for the viewer to behold. Forming part of a series of seven eponymous paintings conceived between 2016 and 2018, Constellations III and its sister works are reminiscent of poetic artistic compositions addressing the theme of celestial arrangements, but also of the Illuminations that frequently accompanied religious manuscripts in the former half of the first millennium. Having earned considerable praise and attention following her debut solo show at Gallery 151, New York, in 2014, Viktor became the subject of her first institutional exhibition in 2018-19, in a show entitled Lina Iris Viktor: A Haven. A Hell. A Dream Deferred. at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

    'I don’t want to control the experience, but I do want to couch the experience. Architecture has the ability to create channels of energy that allow you to focus your view on different things.' —Lina Iris Viktor

    Born in 1987 in the United Kingdom to Liberian parents, Viktor culls inspiration from various time periods and geographies. Mining through past, present, and future, she merges visual references into a single cyclical continuum, yielding unique visual experiences which, in her own words, convey ‘the oneness of things’.1 The result of this comprehensive perspective is an oeuvre that combines the figurative with the abstract; mathematics with mysticism; rich, multivalent black tones with shimmering, luminescent hues of gold and blue  — what Viktor calls ‘lightworks’.2  Though they are distributed in series speaking to notions of time, space, and the cosmos, each of Vitkor’s works feels like a slightly different angle to a singular point of view.

     

    Installation shot from North Carolina Museum of Art, Good as Gold - Fashioning Senegalese Women, 9 September 2020 - 19 April 2021. Image: Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.
    Installation shot from North Carolina Museum of Art, Good as Gold - Fashioning Senegalese Women, 9 September 2020 - 19 April 2021. Image: Courtesy of North Carolina Museum of Art.

     Cosmic Beauty

    'I want to create a visual language, or narrative, that unifies all these different symbols, and find a way to weave a visual tale that is not a literal language but that is felt far more intuitively.' —Lina Iris Viktor 

    Inspired by contemporary and ancient art forms alike, spanning the oeuvres of the West African photographer Seydou Keïta, the 15th-century French illuminator and miniaturist Jean Fouquet, and the British painter David Hockney, Viktor absorbs all the beauty and creativity that surrounds her, and fuses it into a distinct visual realm. With regard to her Constellation series, a few specific references come to mind, including, perhaps most strikingly, Gustav Klimt’s ethereal compositions. Similarly exuding Midas’ touch — and the magnificence of light intertwined with latticework — Klimt’s exquisite Study for Expectation, conceived a century before the present work, constructs a vertical vision of beauty, blending figuration and abstraction with extreme delicacy. In a similar vein, Joan Miró’s Constellation portfolio of 1959 conveys the unknowable grace of the sky and cosmos through the serendipitous arrangement of abstract symbols. Bringing her own edge to this artistic intention, Viktor imparts her creations with a conceptual edge. She finishes her compositions with complex articulations of pattern that resemble glistening portals of gold-leaf code; subsequently, she places resin or lacquer in specific areas of the surface to conjure ‘different lusters of black’.3

     

    Joan Miró, Constellation: Awakening in the Early Morning, 1941, gouache and oil wash on paper, Kimbell Art Museum, Texas. Image: Bridgeman Images.
    Joan Miró, Constellation: Awakening in the Early Morning, 1941, gouache and oil wash on paper, Kimbell Art Museum, Texas. Image: Bridgeman Images.

     

    Black and Gold

    'The way we think about darkness, it’s ominous. What does it mean for Black people to be aligned with this idea? And can you make it beautiful and arresting?'
    —Lina Iris Viktor

    Gold has been a central element to Viktor’s artistic practice since the outset of her career. Yet, transcending its presence as mere material in her compositions, the metal becomes a subject matter in its own right. As Viktor is interested in the ‘otherworldliness’ of gold— and the way it has been perceived across African, Southeast Asian, and South American cultures—she endows it with a spiritual value that is redolent of Yves Klein’s gold divinations, investigating the material’s mystical properties. She furthermore perceives an animated, lifelike connection between the shimmering metal and the colour black — and consequently, between the ‘idea’ of gold and the ‘idea’ of blackness. Balking against the conception that the latter should represent an absence or a deficiency, she instead argues that it is a building block: ‘It is what gold and precious materials are mined from.’ It is in the midst of obscurity and blackness, she adds, that ‘stars and planets are born’.4 Constellations III, with its sumptuous chromatic subtleties diving into the possibilities of black and gold, shows the power and self-sufficiency that exists in the two cosmic chromes, shining with irrepressible fervour like a deep night’s sky. 

  • Golden Precedents

  • Collector's Digest

     

    • Lina Iris Viktor's Constellations III marks the artist's auction début.

     

    • Viktor has been garnering considerable praise since her début solo show at Gallery 151, New York, in 2014.

     

    • Her first institutional exhibition in 2018-19 at the New Orleans Museum of Art was widely celebrated and covered by publications including The Art Newspaper and Dazed.

     

    • In 2020, Viktor was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Fotografiska Museum of Photography, Stockholm, in addition to being included to a celebrated group show at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Good As Gold — Fashioning Senegalese Women.

     

    • Viktor's work is collected by a number of prestigious institutions, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., the Hessel Museum of Art, the Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, the Crocker Museum of Fine Art, Sacramento, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, and Autograph, London.

     

     

    Above Lina Iris Viktor at work on Constellations III

     

    Lina Iris Viktor in Conversation

      

    In this 2019 interview, Lina Iris Viktor walks the reader through her artistic process, her inspirations, and her desire to shed light on the infinite potential for beauty in the colour black. 

     

    Edwina Hagon: What ideas or themes do you explore through your practice?  

     

    Lina Iris Viktor: My work is about a lot of things. It’s partially about trying to make sense of a lot of the cosmologies and symbols and symbologies that have been part of our DNA as human beings, not even about myself as an African, but as human beings since the beginning of time. So, I look at a lot of ancient cultures like the Egyptians, the Nubians, different empires that existed across the content from the Congo to what is now Nigeria. I also look at the Dogon and Mali cultures and the symbologies of the Aboriginal people in Australia, a lot of South American, Native American cultures and how they depict their understanding of the world around them. These symbols are very universal; but for me, I want to create a visual language, or narrative, that unifies all these different symbols, and find a way to weave a visual tale that is not a literal language but that is felt far more intuitively.

     

    I like to explore the ideas of universal implications of blackness, which has a trickle-down effect on the more sociological and racial ideas of blackness. When you think about the universe around us, it appears to be Black, it appears to be a void. Our modern society has always had very negative connotations associated with blackness, and I’m talking about that in the universal sense. So, when you look in Webster’s Dictionary, you see the associations and the synonyms attributed to blackness, and they’re all pretty negative. And so I almost want to create these works that are so visually stimulating—you can call them beautiful or aesthetically pleasing or attractive, but at least stimulating—so we can renegotiate these ideas around the universal implications of how we define blackness.

     

    EH: Color plays a significant role in your practice, in particular blue, black, white, and 24-karat gold. Could you tell us about the motivation behind this purist color palette?

     

    LIV: It was very intuitive. It wasn’t something I actively premeditated on. I’ve mentioned a lot already that I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic language of cultures like the Egyptians and the Nubians, and if you look at the color palettes they use, it’s those colors: black and gold, and lapis—what people call Yves Klein Blue. To me, these colors signify power. And when we look back to that era and time and you see the artifacts remaining, what we see in museums—they’re wholly powerful, they stand the test of time, they’re immortal, and so I wanted to imbue the work with that energy.

     

    Read more here.

     

    1 Lina Iris Viktor, quoted in Tess Tchakara, ‘Everything This Young Artist Touches Turns to Gold’, Artsy, 4 December 2018, online.
    2 Lina Iris Viktor, quoted by Penny Stamps in ‘Materia Prima’, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Youtube, online.
    3 Lina Iris Viktor, quoted in Tess Tchakara, ‘Everything This Young Artist Touches Turns to Gold’, Artsy, 4 December 2018, online.
    4 Lina Iris Viktor, quoted in ‘Golden girl: the 24-karat wonders of Lina Iris Viktor’, The Guardian, 11 October 2017, online.

    • Provenance

      Amar Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Amar Gallery, Black Exodus, Act 1: Materia Prima, 12 September - 31 October 2017

2

Constellations III

24 karat gold, acrylic and gouache on canvas
213.4 x 152.4 cm (84 x 60 in.)
Executed in 2016, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£30,000 - 50,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £195,300

Contact Specialist

 

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

+ 44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

 

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe

+ 44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]

 

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 April 2021