Interview | Introducing Artist Xavier Leopold AKA Xavi Art, December 10, 2020

I recently took a refreshing stroll along Southbank, & I hope you’d agree it’s always lovely to be able to pop for a walk by the water in the centre of London!


Quite by chance I came across Xaviart’s exhibition at the Oxo Tower Wharf…just as I was about to turn around and head hime, his striking Lion Self Portrait on the sandwich board caught my eye and enticed me in!


I was so impressed by the collection I went back with one of my daughters the following day!


Xavier uses acrylic on large canvases, with a varnish on top…(a tip I took away with me!). His style takes on a cubist character and is very unique. What I love about his use of acrylic is the texture he builds up in his paintings which is why acrylic has been a favourite discovery of mine.


Aside from his art being truly dope, it was rewardingly enlightening to learn the story behind Xavier’s work, it created an understanding of how important and pivotal this exhibition was in his life. Also of what it can teach others, and the fact that I (and I’m sure I’m not alone) could relate entirely to the therapy that painting provided him during lockdown. Which is what spurred me to conduct this interview: to find out more, share with you, and shine some light on what Xavier does.


Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions and share with the world…


Hiiii Xavier, fellow South Londoner, who used lockdown to channel the emotions and energy from external bombardment twinned with solitude, into creating art, you actually started your artistic journey here …tell us what you would like to share about this, perhaps start with some background about yourself .… What were you doing before this transition? 

Thank you Sally! I was and still am a professional trader in the world of asset management. This has been my passion and career since I was 18yrs old.

Before starting my artistic journey, my only creative outlet was through designs for the lifestyle/clothing brand called Pledge Allegiance. A good friend of mine (Scott) could see my raw talent and the ability to think outside of the box, which really helped nurture my creativity. Fast forward 7 months, I now juggle all 3 passions, with a recent addition being the ‘This Could End Terribly’ podcast with 2 of my close friends.


I’m really intrigued by the ignition of your artistic flow being just this year, and self taught.…what went through your mind as you picked up that first canvas…how did it even get into your hands?! 

The past decade has been a rollercoaster for my mental health. From losing my best friend who was fatally shot in 2010, to having an early start in an industry that typically causes one to deal with a lot of pressure. Lockdown was the first time where, as the world slowed down, I felt that I could truly get up to speed with my deepest thoughts, emotion and perspective that I had always ran away from.

I would always doodle during my therapy classes, and my therapist would always encourage me to do something with it as I found it calming. I took the doodles and got started on a spare canvas I had and I haven’t looked back ever since!


Your subjects include black historical figures, hip hop artists, sports personalities, personal friends.… How do you come to choose that next person?

I’d like to think of my work as a diary that reflects my psyche. Imagine a mental colouring book of thoughts, emotion and life experiences. I’m a pretty deep thinker, so whatever is on my mind at the time, that I feel deeply about, it tends to also come with a vision of how that would look in art form, specifically in my cubist style.


I love the identifiable lips and the eyelids of your subjects, would you say that is your signature detail on each piece/ is it deliberate, or did it transpire over time !? 

It wasn’t deliberate to begin with, however through the first 3 pieces I did (entitled ‘New Shapes’) I used the same style as I illustrated the growth of a man. I intentionally use vibrant colours throughout my work, however one could suggest that there is a sense of an ‘unfazed’ and emotionless sentiment to it (reflecting on the turbulences of my life experiences). But I tend to leave that up to the audience to make up their mind.


You have a Spotify playlist that connects to your art, like you, I find that music really affects my artistic flow, it’s been my go-to to create the separation between the work space at home and the the peace space at home ! I see one of my faves, A Tribe Called Quest are on your list! How does hip hop influence your art and life & what other music inspires you? 

Like many of us, I grew up on hip hop! Looking back at the genesis and purpose of the genre, which was to allow people to creatively express themselves unapologetically, both lyrically and visually. I feel very much in touch with my zen with hip hop playing whilst I am cooking up a canvas, and to be honest I can’t stand silence, ha!


You also have a clothing label Pledge, tell us more.… and are you thinking of putting your art onto clothing? 

Yes, I co-design Pledge, which both myself and Scott Medusa (the founder) are very passionate about. As for my art, I don’t think I will. Solely for the reason that my paintings are very sentimental, and I would prefer to keep them at a canvas or print level, there is more value going down that route.


It seems the exhibition was a great success, and you sold some pieces as a result. 

What a brilliant location for your debut show, it’s great that you also worked with a local school running a Black Lives Matter art workshop, which will no doubt inspire those children forever. 

Thank you so much! I believe that our generation has seen too much. Where we need to pay more attention is in nurturing the youth, with a clean hearted and open minded perspective on life, it will go a long way, and workshops like the ‘I Can’ one in collaboration with Carl Konadu, really does show that there is potential in the next generation.


Do you have plans for what comes next in relation to your art. more workshops? 

Indeed, more workshops, fingers crossed, more independent and group exhibitions (if anybody will have me — lol). The key thing for me is to stay true to the art, praying, to maintain a level of originality throughout my work, and not get distracted.


I’m sure you’d be welcome by anyone who can relate.

Tell us about the podcast you’re involved with @thiscouldendterribly … 

I am glad you asked this! So myself and two of my friends have had deep, funny and intelligent conversations about life, work, culture and what we have experienced this year. We used to have way too many of these conversations for us to not try and do something with it. We then had a lightbulb moment, to put a podcast together. Not one of us have had podcast experience, so we laughed and said that ‘it could end terribly’… est voila! The name of the podcast was born and we got going! ha.


As momentum continues, your story features on BBC’s news series ‘Our Lives’. (available on iPlayer & Xavier’s Instagram)…it’s pretty self explanatory & very well journaled- coincidentally by your old school friend Ashley John-Baptiste, is there anything you want to share with regards to your recent TV debut?

To start with, if you were to tell me that my recently discovered passion would go national, I’d think that somebody is playing a prank on me! Overwhelmed is an understatement, and I truly believe that this has to be God’s work. It came to me and I didn’t contact them about receiving coverage, and that in itself is a blessing!

I really am grateful that my mission and story has been televised, not from a place of vanity but to have the opportunity to help and inspire others (which has always been my sole goal).


As I watched it, I thought about the art piece you did in your friend’s memory, how awful to lose a friend the way you did, I’m so sorry for your loss. You say in the programme that you have a feeling of being reborn, do you feel art is helping/has helped you turn a corner in managing your personal healing process & do you feel like it’s giving you permission to move forward? 

Though I’ve always come across as a vibrant person for the majority of my life, I have been in some really dark places mentally, some I still deal with in silence as many others do. To be able to find an outlet to dive into my thoughts in a loving, passionate and fun way, I finally found a catalyst that brings out the best of me. I have given my exhibition and journey through art my all, and really feel lighter with a completely different outlook on life. I can’t really explain it, but reborn has to be the closest thing I could think of to describe it.


I can so relate to this Xavier, it’s profound! Thank you so so much!  

You have demonstrated your ability to channel emotions and help yourself through difficult times, do you have a current philosophy in life that may help others to do the same? 

My work glows in the dark, and this is actually a hidden message throughout all of my pieces which gives you an idea of my perspective on life.

‘A star cannot shine unless it’s been through the dark’

Some of your toughest, darkest and frustrating moments will only make you shine brighter!


Is there anything else you wish to tell the world about you!? 

I always try to see the good in everything, that’s my catalyst to life. Good energy breeds good energy, and the outcome is 9.9/10 going to be much more impactful to yourself and the world.

Follow @xaviart & @pledge.allegiance on Instagram and @byxaviart paintlist on Spotify, plus the @thiscouldendterribly Insta + podcast on SoundCloud