Chris Levine’s iconic work, Lightness of Being has proven by now that it is not an image one forgets. It is not a portrait in the conventional sense, but then Levine is not conventional. His life and his artwork are consumed with an exploration into lightness, meditation and the experience of seeing. Throughout his career the majority of his masterpieces have been made to be experienced – as opposed to seen. These are pieces that transcend the gallery wall, the magazine page or the email attachment. They exist only in the moment.
Light 3.142, was the artist’s first major gallery exhibition at the gallery, providing an opportunity to fully grasp the range and depth of his practice. Levine employ all manner of new media as a way to remind us that light is fundamental to our existence. If all matter is made of light then there can be no past, no future, just a continually evolving present. His artworks are signifiers of living in the here and now and aim to focus our attentions and quiet the mind.
His highly anticipated new series, She's Light presented a woman possibly photographed more than Queen Elizabeth II – Kate Moss, the Head of State for contemporary culture. Levine depicted his famous sitter as having far more in common with the great muses of art history than with modern celebrity. The striking composition takes us beyond the surface and distils the icon. This is a face we all know, but Levine focuses our attention with an unselfconscious image that is sharp in the clarity of its form.
The titles of Levine’s Light Portraits directly refer to Levine’s raison d’être: Lightness of Being, Equanimity, Equanimous, She's Light, Stillness at the Speed of Light. His work is underscored by the practice of meditation, where the subject aims to create an equanimous state of mind – a focussed state of observing not reacting. The resonances these titles have with subjects who transcend fame, whose individuality or humanness is completely supplanted by a public persona, are enormous.
Levine achieved something incredibly rare in an age saturated with images and at a time when audiences are highly literate in a visual sense. He surprises us and confounds our expectations, not just of how the Queen or Kate Moss should look, but also how we expect to experience an artwork.
Following this exhibition, the apotheosis of the She's Light series was unveiled in the window of Selfridges, Oxford Street. The site-specific light installation presented Kate Moss in an entirely new fashion and was made in collaboration with the leading make up artist Charlotte Tilbury.