Leonilson´s work´s reflects strong personal subjective expression. In his drawings, paintings and delicate embroidery, he works with words and body mappings, which comprise a private yet open diary.
Leonilson builds a romantic narrative in search of the sublime, often also alluding to nonconformity linked to feelings of impotence and inability to take action. The formal worn look of his embroidery seems to further intensify the sentimental content, by revealing a certain precariousness of the human condition.
Upon discovering he had the AIDS virus, the themes of fear, death and disease became pervaded his work. He began to dwell on the transcendence and fragility of life, delving deeper into the ideas of absence, grief and memory. Addressing intimacy even more deeply, yet conveying universal fears and feelings, his work became more delicate and moving at the end of his life. In 1994, he received a posthumous tribute and a award from the Association of Art Critics of São Paulo for his work.