The Colombian artist behind Melbourne's iconic giant street murals

Children in front Clavijo mural in Hosier Lane, Melbourne. Source: Julian Clavijo

One of the world's most renowned artists has spoken to SBS Spanish about what inspires him to create his giant street murals.

Colombian-Australian street artist Juli├ín Clavijo is best known for his large emotive pieces which feature along city walls across Melbourne.

His creations, which depict the faces of children in transnational conflicts, saw him recognised as the best street artist at the Global Art Awards in November.

He edged out a host of internationally acclaimed artist, including OBEY Clothing founder Shepard Fairey and Thierry Guetta, who is better known as Mr. Brainwash.

"I do not understand how a person who started making murals three years ago can [so quickly] get to rub shoulders with those names," Mr Clavijo told SBS Spanish.

He burst onto the international scene in 2017 for his piece depicting a child wearing a race helmet, which was created in collaboration with Melbourne's hosting of the Formula One Grand Prix. 

He attributes years of learning and practice for his successes over the past three years.

He began painting and sculpting at the age of six - passions that he honed with the help of various masters in the Venezuelan border town of Cucuta, and later in Costa Rica.

His area of expertise was painting on canvas and plastic arts when he arrived in Melbourne in 2008 - but things soon changed.

"When I arrived here at age 21, I became involved in everything that art means in public spaces and then I did my masters in that at the RMIT University," he said.

"Two to three years ago I began to apply all the techniques of plastic art and fine art, that I have done almost all my life, to muralism. That has been well received by everyone."

Australia sowed in him a passion to transform urban spaces with emotive works of art. 

Mr Clavijo's works provide a snapshot into the drama of vulnerable people, particularly innocent children stuck in conflicts.

He said the inspiration for the pieces came from his "happy childhood" in Colombia, which at the time was going through a very turbulent period of internal conflict and violence.

He told SBS Spanish that one particular message that stuck with him occurred years back when he asked the son of a friend what he wanted to be when he grew up. The child answered: "A good person."

Those words echoed in his ears and would form the foundation for his artistic path.

"I discovered that the simplicity of their response was the answer to many of the current problems of current societies," he said.

"I hope my work reflects the need for a more just and peaceful society.

"It's the faces, it's that depth and that innocence, it's that desire for a hope that impacts on the works when you stumble across them."

He said the technique behind his works were originally taught by his teachers in Colombia when he was a child. 

"Three years ago I began to apply these traditional techniques, most are, normal with a brush, with a roller, just like that, with house paint, with acrylic paint as any other and a little spray", he said.

In addition to his look into conflicts and their impacts on vulnerable people, Ms Clavijo said a secret to his success was hard work.

"It becomes a necessity to have to wake up so early to do what you want and what you love."