Thursday, 3 May 2012


There is an interesting story behind this beautiful photograph. The artist was commissioned to commemorate Jersey's 800 years of alliegance to the Crown by a holographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. This was a complicated process (it meant the camera taking 200 images) requiring the Queen to sit motionless for 8 seconds each time. In between the Queen closed her eyes to rest. Levine was struck by 'the beauty of the meditative state' and took this picture.

Levine puts it this way:'During the shoot there was a lot of bright light, noise and each exposure took 8 seconds, which is  a long time to have to sit still. I wanted the Queen to feel peaceful, so I asked her to rest between shots, this was a moment of stillness which just happened.
Meditation was having a profound impact on my life at the time. I told her about how I'd go off on 10 day silent retreats, and she was very interested. I timed the exposures around her breathing - it seemed a way of tuning into her. Later this image really stood out - it has such an aura about it, such a power'.

It is a remarkable image. People in portraits are almost invariably wide awake, alert, very present, possibly self-conscious. We are used to seeing allowing images of great musicians and singers  closing their eyes, lost in the depth of another world. Otherwise  the only  closed eyes we see are part of the ecstasy of scoring a goal or winning a championship.  
The colour of the image is perfect too, gentle skin tones - and perhaps because of the lighting, the fur stole - warm the silvers and greys. The Queen's lips make an arresting splash of colour in the centre of the frame, particularly as they are not shown with  fashionable but unrealistic symmetry.
Here's a link to more of the artist's fascinating account of the process of making this artwork 
Chris Levine is one of 38 artists from 14 countries currently on show at OUT OF FOCUS: PHOTOGRAPHY at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea.

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