Painter’s ghost generation art

Work celebrating elderly residents on display

Friday, 17th June — By Charlotte Chambers

Julio Cesar Osorio and his dog Bumble IMG_6450

Julio Cesar Osorio with his pet dog Bumble, in front of paintings of his grandmother and humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton. He took up painting while serving a jail term and turned his life around

AN artist is set to unveil a series of paintings of older people as part of his mission to raise awareness about the isolation they face.

Julio Cesar Osorio will launch Golden Years Portraits today (Friday), featuring famous faces – and some local ones too – at a special preview event before opening the doors to the public for the following two days at Islington Square in Angel.

Mr Osoria lives and works from his flat in the Samuel Lewis buildings in Liverpool Road. He will be at the exhibition at midday on Saturday and Sunday delivering a talk on his work.

The series began when Mr Osorio, who emigrated from Colombia with his parents and his brother following a bad earthquake in 1982, painted a portrait of his late grandmother after he was unable to see her before she died.

He then began to focus on the older people in his building and his neighbourhood. Realising that many of them were isolated and in need of friendship and access to services, Mr Osoria resolved to create a series of paintings that captured the pride and achieve­ments of the older genera­tions as a way of cele­brating them and drawing attention to their needs.

He said: “There were a couple of old people in my building. One of them was suffering from dementia and many times I actually went down because the alarm went off. And then people were complaining about him and saying he shouldn’t be there, he should be sent [away] – and I said ‘no, we should take more care –you live next to him. I live upstairs – what’s wrong with you?’ That’s where it started.”

He said many older people themselves feel like “outcasts” and as a result become more and more reclusive – referring to them as the “ghost generation”.

Among his portraits for the series are a couple he spotted walking at the Laycock Street Open Space, as well as another woman wearing a fur coat and smoking who he said he spotted years ago in the area.

There are also portraits of recognisable faces including Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised nearly £40million for the NHS during lockdown.

While he had spent many years working as a photographer, Mr Osario discovered his talent for painting after some time at Wandsworth Prison in 2012 following an altercation with a doorman at a pub in Soho near to the photography studio he had set up.

Although originally falling into a depression while he awaited his trial, six weeks into his incarceration he took up painting and never looked back.

“I had to try and turn it around,” he said of the early days. “I had two and a half years on my hands, and I wasn’t just going to sleep and watch telly. So I thought OK, well, what am I going to do? And then I found art and did about 60 paintings in two and a half years. And they’re all on prison fire blankets.”

Since then, the acrylic on canvas artist has gone from strength to strength.

Mr Osorio called on anyone who wants to be more active in supporting older people in their area to contact him via

• The Golden Years Portraits exhibition is at Islington Square, South Arcade, 116 Upper Street, N1 1AB

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