Lina Iris Viktor: Black Exodus: Act I - Materia Prima at Amar Gallery

‘Act I’ of British Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor’s spectacular series, ‘Black Exodus’ is a breathtakingly stunning display at the Amar Gallery, London. ‘Black Exodus’ explores the topic of race and opens viewers’ eyes to a colour blind society and the stereotypes surrounding ‘blackness’.

The Amar Gallery itself isn’t what it seems at first glance. The gallery starts upstairs in a small room but the artwork is not on display here. Viewers are invited down a small staircase, behind a black curtain and into a pitch-black room. Here, Viktor’s work stops viewers in their tracks, prying gasps from mouths, while the dark and golden work of ‘Black Exodus’ radiates throughout the room.

The room being downstairs, with no windows or natural light, and being closed off by the black curtains creates a secluded, secret world for the viewer and the art. The eerie silence creates a beautifully scary, yet magical atmosphere.

The darkness spreads across the room and seeps into every corner, with the only available light falling sparingly from the spotlights shining on Viktor’s incredible works of art. The lights reflect the gold used on the black backgrounds and gleams straight toward the viewers’ eyes, pulling them in, with the force of an industrial magnet. Immersed in Viktor’s world, the effect is haunting and hypnotic and although one can try, it is almost impossible to look away from the shimmering golden masterpieces that fill the room.

‘Black Exodus’ is a beautiful, yet saddening exploration of a dystopian world showing the implications of a future where the black race has been eradicated. The pictures show scenes of nature and fantastical worlds, centred around stunning dark-skinned models with gold woven into their hair and over their bodies.

Viktor’s regal use of 24kt gold in the paintings contrasts brilliantly against the matte and gloss blacks that fill her pictures. The embossed golden patterns have an air of alchemic creation.

The spotlights shine on the raised golden patterns, highlighting the incredible detail, perfection and passion in each work. The patterns and designs represent religious symbols, cosmology, and naturally occurring biological patterns seen in human DNA. The importance of the colour black is not to show blackness as a void or absence of colour, but rather to show it as a source of matter - materia prima.

Visitors who experience this exhibition will be delighted to learn that the term ‘Act I’ has been used here by Viktor in the title to express that this is the first installation of a series of work to come.

Lina Iris Viktor: Black Exodus: Act I - Materia Prima is on at Amar Gallery, London until 31st October 2017.  More information may be found here.

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