British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor’s intricate patterning and restricted colour palette make for awe-inspiring and beautiful art. Add intelligent ideas, a woman with an intriguing personality and a lawsuit against Kendrick Lamar and SZA to the list, and you might understand why Viktor is a rising star you’re gonna want to keep on your watch list.
Lina Iris Viktor is a conceptual performance artist and painter who has a background in film and photography studies. She is fearless and strong, characteristics that shine through in her work. Viktor’s trademark aesthetic is of an Afro-futuristic and bold painting technique, using 24-karat gold to create her stylistic motifs. A common thread in much of her work is the use of black paint, calling into question the historical connotations of blackness as a representation of emptiness or void in art. Instead, Viktor uses black as a representation of fullness and source of life. “Every colour in the spectrum is contained in black, but that’s not what society teaches us, that’s not what art school teaches you. Art school teaches you that you shouldn’t use black in paintings, really. If you look at the art market they tell you that dark paintings sell less, black paintings sell less… I think that’s ironic,” she shares in an interview with The Root. “Black is the full absorption of light and white is the full negation of light. When you look into the sky and it’s completely – it looks black to the human eye, it looks like a void. But it’s full. Dark matter has substance,” Viktor continues.
Lina Iris Viktor brings a unique aesthetic that is sought after in the worlds of both pop culture and art institutions. But Viktor has made it clear, her art = her rules. Earlier this spring, Lina Iris Viktor made headlines as she sued Kendrick Lamar and SZA for using her work without permission about 3 minutes into the All the Stars music video, made as a soundtrack to Marvel’s Black Panther movie. A 20-second long scene is shot using visuals strikingly reminiscent of Viktor’s paintings. Viktor’s lawyer sent a letter to Lamar’s TDE team stating that she had been approached twice by Marvel’s reps about using her work for the music video, but she declined on both occasions. Despite this, her art – or at least art heavily influenced by her aesthetics – seems to have been used.
It’s ironic in the saddest of ways that a movie championing black and female empowerment has appropriated art by a black, female artist – without giving credit. It’s problematic too that the solution to the issue is a lawsuit pitting black artists against each other. What is interesting, however, is that in Viktor’s quest for justice, she has become a grist for the gossip mill and, thereby, increasingly well-known. Although Viktor’s art doesn’t need controversy to gain the recognition it deserves, it did. And it’s working in her favour.