Recent graduate exhibited at the Royal Academy

"It's been quite a crazy year!"

By Laura Kenworthy 2min read
Painting of Afolabi Alli by Xanthe Burdett

Painting was sidelined for Xanthe Burdett (BA, 2015-18) during her time at Homerton. The demands of her degree in Education with Drama and English, plus her focus on acting, did not leave much room either literally or metaphorically for art.

“I like to do oil painting, which would have taken up a lot of space in a student bedroom!” she says. “Also it smells quite strongly, which would have been a bit antisocial.”

Her artistic talents did not go undetected – she painted one of the Homerton Christmas cards as a student. But it wasn’t until 18 months after leaving Cambridge, when the UK went into lockdown in early 2020, that it really came to the fore.

“I had been painting quite intensely since graduation, but I was fitting it around jobs. Then, thanks to lockdown, I suddenly had the wherewithal to focus on it.”

That focus paid off almost immediately. She quickly found herself juggling multiple portrait commissions and, over the past year, has been selected for the Royal Institute of Oil Painters exhibition at the Mall Galleries and the Green and Stone Summer Exhibition, at which she won a Highly Commended Award. Her portrait of a friend, actor Afolabi Alli, is currently on display as part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, and sold on the second day.

“I’m so glad that it’s the portrait of Af which is featured in the Summer Exhibition. We met in the National Youth Theatre, and he’s been so supportive of me, so it’s lovely to feel that he’s part of this experience. It’s been quite a crazy year!”

Xanthe also works in community arts, running art classes for young carers and adults with disabilities. She credits her time at Homerton with equipping her for this aspect of her career.

“I didn’t go to art school, but because I studied Education that gave me the confidence to work with people in this way. Studying Education, English and Drama at Homerton was a fantastic experience and really informs the narrative elements of my painting as well as my community art practice.”

View more of Xanthe's work on her website or Instagram page.