The Diamond Queen: Chris Levine On His Collaboration With Asprey

11/07/2013 18:43 | Updated 22 May 2015

diamond queen

Chris Levine, the light artist behind Equanimity, perhaps the most iconic of modern royal portraiture, has revisited his 2004 work for the Diamond Jubilee. The installation, entitled The Diamond Queen is to be sold in a silent auction to raise money for the Woodland Trust and Qest and is overlaid with a real diamond diadem created by Asprey. We spoke to Chris and Paddy Byng, Asprey's managing director, at the unveiling of this new work.

How did the collaboration with Asprey come about and how does this installation build on the ideas explored in Equanimity?

Chris Levine: It was an idea I'd discussed with one of my colleagues and it just seemed so right for the Diamond Jubilee and this moment in time. We put the idea to Paddy Byng and it unfolded from there.

Paddy Byng: Being British and being associated with the royal family through many Royal warrants over the years, meant that we felt that it was very important to mark the diamond jubilee in a really extraordinary, unique and iconic way.

So when we met up with Chris, who also wanted to celebrate the jubilee in a similar fashion there was an opportunity to collaborate together and create this spectacular one off piece of art, which takes an already iconic portrait of the Queen to the ultimate level by re-creating a physical version of the diadem and montaging it onto the original 3D image.

Chris, you made Equanimity in 2004. How do you feel about that piece now?

CL: I set out to create a 21st century icon and seeing it on the cover of TIME magazine made me realise I'd hit the mark. I shot a huge amount of material on a number of different camera set ups, and as an image maker I couldn't resist exploring the work beyond the immediate scope of the brief. In fact the combined power of the various works have created enormous publicity for Jersey who commissioned the portrait. Overall I'm pleased with the work and delighted its given so much pleasure.

Why did you decide to revisit the Equanimity project now?

CL: I still wasn't entirely happy with the work I delivered in 2004 and it became a work in progress over the last few years. The Diamond Queen with Asprey was a chance to take the work to its conclusion using the latest developments in the technique, and showcase the most beautiful craftsmanship put into the diadem.

Do you think attitudes to royalty have changed since 2004 thanks to the royal wedding and the Diamond Jubilee

CL:It seems the public feelings have become increasingly positive since that period and now surely at an all time high. Her Majesty is held in high regard by the majority of the country and I'm not sure that was always the case.

Can you explain the process of making Equanimity?

CL:To record a hologram is a highly technical subject and I relied heavily on my collaborators (the holographers John Perry, Rob Munday and Jeff Robb) to execute the work. I understand enough about the parameters in the process to be able to direct and determine the image. It's a marriage of art and science.

What was it like working with the Queen?

CL: I was quite blasé about the project for the couple of years it was in the diary. However, as the shoot date came close the responsibility became quite intense. I was given total freedom in where I took the work but with that came a lot of pressure to create something worthy. It couldn't just be good.

What was it like when you met her?

CL: It was quite daunting when I first met her. I'd worked with fame but she transcends it. In fact she was very accommodating to my needs and gave me an extra sitting and two private audiences to show her work in progress. The biggest surprise for me was the opportunity to style the Queen, from the clothes she wore to the crown on her head. It was a great privilege.

How did this new Jubilee project challenge the Asprey team?

PB: There were two key elements of the project that we found technically difficult. The first was creating a diadem that was 2D for what was actually a 3D installation. This element we found incredibly interesting as it meant we were effectively swapping roles as jewellery is usually 3D and art is 2D. Accuracy was a crucial element to the production of the The Diamond Queen as we had to ensure that the diadem we were recreating was true to the historical elements of the original George VI diadem.

The installation is on exhibition at the Asprey flagship store on167 New Bond Street, London W1S 4AY until 25 June. It will then be displayed at the Masterpiece Fair from the 26 June through to 5 July.

the diamond queen


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