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Lightness of Being -The Enigmatic Sovereign

With the recent celebrations of the Queens Platinum Jubilee, which were immensely enjoyable, I followed the events on TV, the trooping of the colour, the fun, colourful parades and the uplifting concert. I joined in local events, with lighting of beacons, and held our own garden party with friends and family, after which I needed a bit of quiet time.

Picking up a magazine, an imagine of the Queen featured in Harper’s Bazar caught my attention, and the accompanying article written by Chris Levine who created the iconic portrait.

Chris Levine is a known as a light artist who works across many mediums in pursuit of an expanded state of perception and awareness through image and form. Levine’s work considers light not just as a core aspect of art, but of human experience more widely and a spiritual, meditative and philosophical edge permeates his work.

Levine created the iconic images, Lightness of Being. With light and stillness at its core, the sensational portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II presents an utterly fresh depiction in the twenty-first century, of the most famous woman in the world. The National Portrait Gallery stated it was the most evocative image of a royal by any artist.

The insight to how Chris Levine worked with the Queen reveals a side of our extraordinary and inspiring figurehead which he shares from behind the scenes, here is the extract from the article.

Chris Levine writes

‘If I was going to take on the commission. I wanted to install into it something iconic., Creatively, I was given complete agency, I got to style the Queen, which I did with her PA Angela Kelly and chose a single line of pearls, a selection of capes and the Diadem Crown which is beautiful and understated, with a simple cross.

The appointment had been in my diary for three years, and when the big moment arrived, it was surreal. The Queen came into the Yellow Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace wearing the dress I had picked out. And I almost had to pinch myself. Angela Kelly brought the crown in a large jewellery box. You might think putting it on would be a big ceremonial affair. But they just did it in front of the mirror. I had been briefed how to address the Queen. ‘Ma’am’, not ‘Marm’ and to shake her hand as she put hers out. She was very composed and observant rather than reactive. She looked at me and didn't give anything away.

I had some incense burning in the room because I wanted to create an ambience of calm. I used a camera that takes 8 seconds and shoots 200 frames, so I stood next to her to time it with her breathing. I wanted to capture a sense of escalation and stillness. To see her as a human. Rather than beast distracted by the fact she is the Queen. I spoke with her about meditation practices, and learnt that hers is gardening. Which I thought was quite beautiful.

He goes on to say about the Lightness of Being, where the Queens eyes are closed, the second portrait after the official one, Lightness of Being. Equanimity, where the Queens eye are open.

‘This was actually an out take, and I think the reason it has touched so many people is because it has a spiritual dimension. Some people who are not necessarily royalists have collected versions of Lightness of Being, and now are there are editions hanging on different walls all over the world. There is something about it that you just connect with. It has a certain serenity. I think it's a work of art can give you a moment of peace. Then view is naturally respond to it.

Harper’s Bazar June 2022

How does Chris Levine's portrait of the Queen make you feel?

Astrid x


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