Chris Levine; ‘The Lightness Of Being’

Light artist CHRIS LEVINE is probably best known for creating the now iconic image ‘Lightness Of Being’ and also ‘Equanimity’, both portraits of Queen Elizabeth II. Over the course of his career, he has worked on a multitude of collaborative projects with major names in music, performance, installation, fashion and design including Philip Treacy, Kate Moss, ‘Massive Attack’, Mario Testino, Grace Jones, Asprey Jewellers, Antony and the Johnsons, and took the the 80th birthday portrait of the Dalai Lama. Chris has an ongoing relationship with The Eden Project in Cornwall, England, and has exhibited all round the world; in London his work can be seen at The National Portrait Gallery, The Saatchi Gallery, The Science Museum and The Fine Art Society. Here, Chris answers a few of our lifestyle questions…


Sir Ranulph Fiennes by Chris; The Dalai Lama with Chris; Chris in conversation at the V&A

C&B: “How would you describe yourself and what you do, in once sentence?”

CL: “I’m a meditating Light artist, apparently from Mars; light and the idea of stillness are the subjects that most inspire my work…”


Naomi Campbell by Chris; ‘Space Rocker’; HM Queen at the National Portrait Gallery

C&B: “How did you start out initially?”

CL: “I took an art degree, as it was quicker than architecture, but back then it was only until our band, ‘The Triangle’, took off… there were three of us in the band – a cross between ‘The Police’ and ‘Pink Floyd’ – and we actually did have ‘Pink Floyd’s management taking an interest in us at that time. Thankfully, art school got in my way, as I’m sure I’d have met a classic rockers demise. Luckily for me, my ‘Plan B’ in art has worked out…”


Light installation in Tasmania; Chris with David Furnish; the ‘Atomic’ series

C&B: “When you’re not working or travelling, where is it that you feel most relaxed?”

CL: “Home is in Hampshire, and that’s where the family and I reside. My idea of the perfect day is chilling with my family… the sun is shining, and it’s great to be alive. Home for me has never been too far from London, since all the travelling we did as nomadic kids; my entrepreneurial Dad was an engineer and he took us around the world with him on his ventures; I went to several schools in the US and Belgium before I was settled at a Quaker boarding school outside Cambridge….”


A parabolic dish in Chris’s studio; Chris at Frieze Art Fair; a lightbox of Grace Jones

C&B: “What most inspires you and leads to your most innovative work…?”

CL: “When I’m at my most relaxed, I’m looking inside of myself to feel my heart…outside, in nature. Refuge is within, if but for a moment, and it’s my salvation; frankly I’d have lost it and ended it all long ago had I not found meditation. I think I’d have spontaneously combusted at some point if I hadn’t been taught to get still – ‘Gordon (Campbell, the philosopher and philanthropist), RIP, I’m forever grateful to you…’ The insight you can achieve through seeking stillness can take you so much deeper into the nature of reality; you re-calibrate and attune to ‘what is’, not what you want it to be – i.e. the truth. I also use music to medicate and change my mode – mixed, varied and random delights…”


Sushi Iki; designs by Hussein Chalayan; Hotel Arts, Barcelona

C&B: “What are your most memorable travel experiences and where would you like to go next…?”

CL: ““I’m being drawn back to the East… it’s been way too long after several trips years ago. But my favourite hotel in Europe is that hotel in Barcelona which has a sauna on the 40th floor, and floor to ceiling windows that overlook the sea (Hotel Arts). That one. It’s pretty cool. And whenever I think of the most delicious food, I’m reminded of a restaurant, some drive from LA, that was full of Japanese (Sushi Iki); I had sushi that completely rocked my world. It was sensational, and the experience was burnt into my memory; a memorable evening with great friends…”


C&B: “Does fashion influence your work at all – if so, which designers?”

CL: “My favourite designer of all time is Hussein Chalayan… we once shared a studio, and I did a lot of his graphics; he honed a certain graphic line that still resonates today…”


Members of U2 by Chris Levine

C&B: “What would our readers be most surprised or intrigued to know about you…?”

CL: “I’m a ‘hard-rocker wannabe’… I used to literally run to my drum kit to ‘knock one out’, as they say; it’s a primal thing. Also, I was proud to earn my shuttlecock tie, having been spectacularly wiped out on the Cresta Run in St Moritz. Thirdly, I smashed lots of school swimming records back in the day – and if I don’t blow that trumpet now, who will ever know that of me? They called me ‘The Freak’ – so what’s new?!” (Laughter)


Houghton Hall; Sotheby’s; The TATE Modern

C&B: “What’s next and what would you like your legacy to be…?”

CL: “My best work, and what I feel I’m here on earth to do, still lies ahead of me… My next chapter, exploring sound and light, I hope will inspire the next generation to go deeper as the technology develops; more will be revealed at Glastonbury next year – the 50th anniversary of the festival, where we’re going to blow thousands of minds with a thing called ‘IY’. I’ll also be presenting a series of works at Sotheby’s in September; a kind of ‘greatest hits’ of my past work that’s been lying dormant in plan chests and whose time has now come. Then my sights are set on Houghton Hall in Norfolk, where I’m developing a large laser piece that’s turned to the rotation of the earth. Finally, the place I’d most like to see my work installed is Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, where Anish and Olafur set the bar for physical and light – and hats off to them; they have my total respect. But my own time will come; I’m just getting started…”

Comments are closed.