Benjamin Zephaniah - Poet, writer, lyricist and musician.

"Julio is a cool cat. I became aware of his work when I used one of his paintings as the poster image for an exhibition I was curating on the Southbank. It was the stand out piece of the exhibition. His work is vibrant, intelligent, relevant, and quirky. I love his work. Welcome to his world."


My name is Julio Cesar Osorio, but I work under my artist name, Juliocesartist. I was born in Colombia but moved to the UK in 1983 to join my father and new family and have been based in London ever since. On leaving school, I set up a number of businesses. However, my passion for documentary photography inspired me to return to education as a mature student, and then pursue a career in the industry. 


A visit to my birth place, Colombia, in the late 1990s led to my first big photographic project, Work, Play, and No Rest, which was part of a university assignment. This developed into a five-year project that culminated in a book containing 150 photographs documenting the lives of disadvantaged children in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and Venezuela. Twenty per cent of the book’s revenue sales were donated to an orphanage in South Africa and another in Peru. Six copies of the book are housed in the British Library at the institution’s behest.


My love of painting emerged shortly after March in 2012 being sentenced for defending myself, following an altercation with a nightclub doorman. As I was without the cameras I had come to rely on for my creative expression, I began to paint. Once I started, I could not stop,  because painting allowed me to view my current circumstances and life with a clearer mind. 


The first month I spent locked up for 23 hours a day, and fell into a deep depression while awaiting trial. One day I was unlocked and instructed to follow the education free flow to attend the induction day for education. It was in a small art room and where I found the spark that changed my life. There were basic materials available, and was instructed to paint or draw whatever I wanted and was lost as had never painted before so was encouraged to look through the art books available for inspiration. I chose to copy a painting of a seaside view from an art book and the result is the painting below and which I keep as a momentum of the start of my new journey in life.  


Six months after, one of the tutors offered to present my work in a solo exhibition at the Barristers chambers in Chancery Lane London, and there my first painting was sold. The exhibition was subsequently featured in Not Shut Up, a charity and magazine, which celebrates and facilitates creative programming for those detained or in secure hospitals, refugee centers, and children’s homes.


I produced 60 paintings during the incarceration and most paintings are tagged with a HM PRISON clothing label to show where the works were created.


A year before my release, my works were featured at London's renowned Southbank Centre as part of the Koestler Trust's 'Catching Dreams' exhibition. Two days after my release the following year I was able to attend the openning of “We Are All Human” exhibition at the same venue curated by the poet, writer, lyricist and musician, Benjamin Zephaniah and who chose my painting Miniscule Beauty as the poster image for the exhibition.


As a prise I was awarded a fine art scholarship from The Monument Trust and have not looked back. I have had several solo exhibitions as well as being part of group ones.


As a self-taught painter, who did not attend art classes or art school, I have developed my own style. By not having rules to follow with regards to colours; I am free to create using my raw instinct.