Since graduating from Chelsea and Saint Martin’s School of Art in the 80s, Chris Levine has continued to explore the properties of laser light – the purest available to man – and has developed a distinctive language that is both modern and highly original. Levine’s work is immersive and by extension transformative, often focused on a collective experience that enhances awareness of the present moment and our connectedness to one another.
PCR) How do you describe your practice?
CL) I am an experimental artist working primarily with light and meditation. Whilst my most well-known work is photographic, light is the raw data of an image and it is increasingly about the message and the medium being one – Be Light.
PCR) Do you find there are conflicting attitudes between commercial and fine art photography? (Discuss both)
CL) When I made the transition from designer to artist, it was something I felt I had to earn. I’d spent years working with various forms of imaging, including photography, but it was a craft perfected to communicate in visual terms being set to you. In commercial photography, you’re expressing or getting people to engage in a rigid narrative that is usually about the dollar at the end of the day. I used that period of work and the experience of different media to develop my practice and when I started to meditate it took me in a different direction, my values and ambitions changed and the realisation of a more spirit based reality made chasing the dollar irrelevant. I became an artist.
PCR) Who do you sight as your main influences and how have other photographers impacted on your work?
CL) I’ve always been interested in imagery rather than photography necessarily. I’m not a photographer and when I work on photographic projects I work with Jeff Robb who in my opinion is the best lenticular specialist in the world. Work we’ve done has set new standards in this field. Andy Warhol, Takis, Bjork, Olafur Eliasson and Nick Knight have all impacted me as does a butterfly – how does it stay still in gusts of wind?
PCR) Could you talk about your use of light boxes and how they enhance your photographic work?
CL) When a lightbox is used, the image is literally luminescing and radiating light and so at a pure energy level the work is literally more powerful.
PCR) How do you engage with your subjects to relax them in order to bring out the best in them?
CL) It’s about connecting with the soul and to do that you need to get past the personality. If we can become still, then somehow the soul radiates more. With Her Majesty the Queen I was very conscious of her breathing when I timed the moving camera, with Kate Moss I used some light installation pieces in the studio which were very calming. With Ranulph Fiennes, I had my phone on the floor behind him emitting a sound frequency of 136.1 Hz which is the OM frequency. The Dalai Lama knew how to get still. Blessed was I to engage with him on such a personal level.
PCR) After Your success in the Made In Britain sale at Sotheby’s where your portrait of the Queen sold for £187,000, do you feel you have arrived?
CL) Arrived? Got a long way to go but as they say, success is the journey, not the destination. It’s nice being able to support my family and pay the mortgage along the way.
PCR) How did you come up with the title for your latest exhibition Who are wE_+ at the Fine Arts Society?
CL)For me its the big question, who are we? Truly does anyone really know? The _+ in the title alludes to energy and I think its a clue.
Words: Chris Levine with questions by P C Robinson Images courtesy Fine Art Society London © Chris Levine all rights reserved – Interview © Artlyst 2017
CHRIS LEVINE WHO ARE WE_+ The Fine Art Society London 24 APRIL – 19 MAY 2017