Official Publication of the St Lucia Hotel & Tourism Association

THE COMPLETE XAVIER

The book on St. Lucian artist Llewellyn Xavier, OBE is about to be written. The author, Edward Lucie-Smith, is a world renowned art historian. Commissioned by the British publishing house, Macmillan, edited and photographed by Jenny Palmer author of St Lucia Portrait of an Island - the coffee table edition is part of a series on leading Caribbean artists. Xavier’s immense body of work, spanning his 40-year career will be featured along with two hundred colour plates.

Compiling the book has been a revelation for Xavier. He located his early works in private collections in order to photograph them for inclusion in the book. The retrospective allowed him to rediscover the young man that he left behind in the 1960’s.

In 1963 Xavier began to paint.He was given a box of paints by someone he shared a flat with in Barbados and started to experiment on canvas. One of his early works Boats in Harbour was done with a palette knife to create surfaces textured with heavy impasto. At this time he painted a series of hurricanes in oils and flower still life.

“I was naïve and saw only the beauty of the Caribbean,” says Xavier. “I painted light and colour.” He then moved to London in the 1970’s and encountered discrimination for the first time which filled him with a combination of “rage and extreme sadness.” In his search for expression, he took up the cause of George Jackson, an Afro-American doing a life sentence in a United States prison for a minor offence. He had been brutally beaten in jail was and eventually killed for allegedly trying to escape. This cause celebre became Xavier’s protest song.

In 1971, he wrote to George Jackson. The letters, along with the prison censor stamps became part of a new work. He also wrote to Jean Genet, Peter Hain, James Baldwin and John Lennon concerning the plight of Jackson, their reactions were included in the work.
The George Jackson, Soledad brother series, launched Xavier internationally. With it, he created a contributory art form called Mail Art. In a year long exhibition entitled Back to Black which opened in June 2005 at London’s Whitechapel Gallery, the Jackson series
is still getting excellent reviews.

“In his work Xavier manages to combine his struggle to bring the case to the public's attention and the horrific nature of Jackson's imprisonment. The end result is that the artist's political struggle emerges as both an act of brilliant polemic and challenging
aestheticism,” writes Larry Herman in the New Statesman.

Works followed on the life of Paul Robeson and another on Race and Sex. Llewellyn Xavier then moved to Canada. He produced a work entitled the Nightlife of Toronto, Howard University in Washington DC acquired the collection.

After a period at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design he entered a monastery for a year. However he decided that this was not the life for him and returned to his art. Shortly afterwards he married Christina a close friend and soul mate whom he had previously met in St Lucia.

A monumental environmental work followed. “Global Council for Restoration of the Earth’s Environment”, made entirely of recycled elements and with contributions by some of the world’s most important ecologists and environmental organizations - Professor David Bellamy, Sir Chris Bonington, the World Wildlife Fund, the International Council
for Bird Preservation, the Rainforest Trust and the St. Lucia National Trust. Works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institute and the American Museum of Natural History.

Environment Fragile is another series with a preservationist theme. The work is made entirely from recycled cardboard, ends of commercial paint and embedded with shards of 24 carat gold. The cardboard represents the earth and the millions of trees that have been grounded into dust for commercial purposes. The ends of paint represent the finality of earth’s resources and the gold represents the preciousness of our environment.

A series of the work will become stamps to be released early 2006. In October 2004, Llewellyn Xavier was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace for his contribution to art.

Today Llewellyn Xavier is working on an immense series of watercolours, experimenting with the medium to produce extraordinary images and textures. He distills the paint, discards the additives and retains only the pure pigment. He gets to a place “where there is the greatest clarity, intensity of colour and free form.”

Dr. Gloria Gordon, art historian says: “The brilliant palette of Llewellyn Xavier’s watercolours speaks of the natural beauty of the Caribbean environment. Horizontal bands of pure hue flow across the paper to capture the grandeur of St Lucia’s famous volcanic mountains,
the Gros Piton and Petit Piton. At the lowermost margin of the work, hot yellow bleeds into alizarin crimson, orange and pale yellow, establishing mountainous shapes silhouetted against pale violet and deep blue skies above. One could say that the Gros Piton and Petit
Piton are to Xavier what Mont Sainte-Victoire in Aix-en-Provence were to Cezanne, a source of profound inspiration.”

According to Edward Lucie-Smith, author of the book on Xavier, these watercolours are among the finest work that Xavier has produced. Llewellyn Xavier has come full circle. He has rediscovered a state of innocence that he thought was long gone. His conversion to
Christianity, he believes, is the source of his new inspiration. There is indeed a new found peace in his work.


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