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National Portrait Gallery unveils new portrait of Baroness Helena Kennedy
Baroness Helena Kennedy with the finished portrait. ©Jorge Herrera Photography.

LONDON.- A newly commissioned portrait of barrister, politician and broadcaster Baroness Helena Kennedy by light artist Chris Levine has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, London, it was announced today (Thursday 28 November 2013). The portrait was commissioned by the Gallery with the support of J.P. Morgan through the Fund for New Commissions.

The larger than life-size portrait shows Baroness Kennedy dressed in her barrister’s robe, turned to face the viewer. Around two feet by three feet in size, the portrait is a lenticular print, which is created using a specialist photographic technique that gives the image a three-dimensional effect when viewed from different angles.

When discussing the commission at an early stage, Kennedy was keen for the portrait to depart from the more traditional approaches taken by artists who have portrayed her in the past. Reflecting on her legal career as a specialist in criminal law and women’s rights, and her political and humanitarian roles, Kennedy remarked that she is always ‘animated, engaged and energised’ and she felt the portrait should reflect this immediacy and directness. Although the portrait is very contemporary in style, it also contains traditional elements such as the robe she is wearing and her formal pose.

To create the portrait, Levine used a moving camera to take several images of Kennedy from different angles in quick succession. The images were then combined to form a stereoscopic image with an illusion of depth, which can appear to change or move as the viewer looks at it from different angles. The same photographic process was also used by Levine to produce his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, entitled Equanimity (2012), which is also in the National Portrait Gallery Collection.

Chris Levine says: ‘When I was researching the Baroness, one quote of hers really sang to me. When asked what really matters, the Baroness replied: “love matters, it’s the only thing that really matters”. This sentiment has undoubtedly given her power and integrity in her work and I wanted to somehow convey a sense of compassion and strength about her.’

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘Helena Kennedy is an inspiring contemporary figure and this dynamic work by Chris Levine captures her powerful intelligence in an entirely appropriate way. I am very grateful to J.P. Morgan for their continuing support for such an important programme of commissions.’

Helena Kennedy QC is one of the UK’s most distinguished lawyers. She has practiced in the field of criminal law for 40 years and has conducted many of the leading cases during that time, including the Balcombe Street Siege, the Brighton bombing trial, the Guildford Four Appeal, the Michael Bettany Espionage case and the Bombing of the Israeli embassy. She has championed law reform for women, especially relating to sexual and domestic violence, and developed the defence for ‘Battered Woman Syndrome’ in the British courts, as well as acting as the leading voice for equal opportunities for women in the legal profession. Kennedy has also authored a number of books on law reform, written the successful television series Blind Justice and, during the eighties, became a well know broadcaster on law and ethics, presenting the BBC's Heart of the Matter. Kennedy has also been a member of the House of Lords for 16 years, where she sits on the Joint Committee of human Rights, and is now Principal of Mansfield College, Oxford. She is Chair of Justice and Co-Chair of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute. Kennedy has received 37 honorary doctorates, is an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy and has also been honoured by the Governments of France and Italy.

Chris Levine was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1972. After studying graphic design at Chelsea School of Art and computer graphics at Central Saint Martins School of Art, he went on to produce a body of work that embraces photography, lasers, holography and stage design in which light is a central, connecting theme. Levine describes this range of activity as that of a ‘light artist’. In the last decade he has exhibited internationally, including shows in London, Singapore, Paris and Milan.

Baroness Helena Kennedy by Chris Levine is on display in Room 38a in the Ground floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from Thursday 28 November, Admission free.

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