Many of us have probably seen the works of Pescara-based artist Millo in different corners of the world. And from these massive murals, an amalgamation of childish wonder, chaos, and the cornerstones of each city looked back. We sit down to take inventory of everything housed behind these ornate walls – a love for architecture, hotels, and brainchildren that are no longer your own as soon as the paint dries.
In one of your earlier interviews, you mentioned having the desire to paint every surface within your reach since childhood. Why did you settle on sides of buildings as the surface?
I still keep this desire hidden inside! It has been a big step for me to move from small surfaces to giant walls, and I feel like it’s enough for the moment. I don’t feel that this focus on walls is an obstacle that prevents me from developing different kinds of work in the future, but of course, making murals totally satisfies my creative pursuit for now.
Before turning to street art, you studied architecture. How has this influenced your artistic vision?
I think that studying architecture but, most of all, loving it, has shown me the limitations of life early on. When I had finished my university studies, Italy – just like the rest of Europe – was hit by the economic crisis. In that specific moment, it was very clear to see that everything that made me love the idea of becoming an architect was disappearing behind the only actual career prospects of creating terrible buildings in order to sell them. No more art, no more beauty. So, I focused on my urgent desire to communicate a deeper message and started creating my own art instead.
You emphasize the value of impactful art – the sort that is not only beautiful but also accessible and engaging. What is one piece that exemplifies this ideal combination for you?
Among my own works, I’m totally unable to pick one. However, I try to incorporate different levels of meaning into each of them. Thus, some people only see two characters playing in my murals; others, only the chaotic background; but most of them see the interplay between our daily lives in an urban jungle and the potential to remain pure while inhabiting it. I hope that this combination is present in all of my murals.
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Your own works reflect the unique elements of various cities, the lives of their inhabitants and the state of an individual’s inner world. How do you create something that resonates with both those who built a city, those who populate it, and the versions of them who reside inside their heads?
By being one of them. I’m the one who could have built a better place for us to live in, I’m the one who lives in these kinds of cities, and I’m also the one who dreams of something different. What I actually do is compress all these different feelings into one and spread them out onto a wall.
Have you ever considered straying from your signature style, trying something completely different?
I have ‘considered it’ in the sense of having and holding onto the idea of making such a decision possible. Maybe one day I will.
How do you manage to combine so many different bits and pieces – including the pre-existing architectural elements of buildings – on one surface without making the end result boring or overwhelming?
I’m glad that my audience doesn’t find them boring! Each wall could be considered similar to the previous one because of my signature style. But every time, in each city, I focus on a different aspect of it. I let myself feel inspired by the place itself, by its history, its beauty, and its contradictions.
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You remarked that over the years your perception of space has changed, causing you to adopt a less critical and more poetic perspective. What have been the consequences of this shift?
The thing is, I never abandoned the critical perspective. I still adhere to it in a more harmonious way. The consequence, maybe, is that now I allow my audience to interpret my murals as they like, not only as I want them to.
Have any of the spaces that your works occupy changed since your last visit, and if so, how?
In Ukraine, there was not a single tree or any space to walk beside my mural before, and now there’s a lovely garden made by the same people who live in the building on which it was painted. In Milan, there was a sort of open-air junkyard in front of the walls I painted, now there’s a cultural space. I have a lot of similar examples!
What distinguishes your relationship towards your murals from other artists’ relationships towards their works? Are you ever sad to leave your brainchild behind in a foreign city?
I always think that, sooner or later, I’ll be back to check in on them again! Besides, I’m not sad when I leave ‘cause from the moment a wall is finished it doesn’t belong to me anymore, but to all of the people who live in that particular place.
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As someone who is not intimidated by either a massive blank canvas or the threat of your finished work being painted over, what is your secret? Could you give some advice for those of us who struggle to start or to finish a piece?
I don’t like postponing, so I always tell myself, do it today, you’ll never know what’ll happen tomorrow. That’s also one reason for me not to give up and to keep pushing and fighting for what I want to do.
Seeing as you’ve travelled quite a lot throughout your career, what are your feelings about hotels? Are they a welcoming space or one that you try to leave as quickly as possible?
Hotels are my second home, so my relationship with them is absolutely great! Sometimes the real problem is coming back home and remembering that I have to work to keep everything working!
Any exciting plans for the autumn?
I’m going to join two social festivals in my home country – Italy!
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