Xavier is the chosen name of Salford painter Brian Nicholson.
“I liked the name Xavier because I did an A to Z of artists and I couldn’t think of anyone else whose name started with an X.”
The 57-year old cut his artistic teeth around the Manchester local music scene with contributions towards cut-and-paste punk band fanzines which he and his friends would hand out at the doors of the city’s clubs.
With a full grant available, a course at Manchester Polytechnic was all he needed to take his punk collages to a new level, and to open him up to fresh techniques. “My father,” he reflects, “was horrified at the idea of me doing art. He wanted me to work in industry, which is what I eventually had to do for necessity’s sake.”
Work and family took over until, at 51, Xavier found time to return to painting, setting up at a studio on Salmon Street, in the city’s Northern Quarter.
Xavier describes Manchester as a place where people used to observe art happening “literally under our noses, by which I mean down the map in London – but this has changed, and now we’re a capital city in our own right.”
“When you were growing up around Manchester, when I was squatting in Hulme Crescents, I’d walk into the Arndale Centre (shopping precinct) and it was like walking into a paradise. You’d see famous people in magazines and there we all were, carting ungrateful children about with hands full of shopping bags, and not feeling the glamour at all. Art sets us free of all that, all of us. You only need to get home, send the kids to bed, and open up a box of paint.
“I paint now because I need to.
“We live in troubled times and my art asks many questions. What relevance does Winston Churchill have to who we are now? Has the propaganda of time made him a guiding spirit of our times, or are the two fingers a bit f*** you all? Was he the original punk rock rebel? These are frightening propositions for frightening times, and I want to capture it all on canvas.