He was born in 1979 in Mesagne, a small city in the southern Italian province of Brindisi, and now lives in Pescara, where he initially moved to study architecture. But his love for drawing led him to build a life as an artist, participating in numerous street art festivals. In 2014 he won the B.Art competition, which enabled him to paint 13 murals across Turin. His work has not just been limited to Italy; it is scattered through Rome, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Paris, London, Luxembourg and Rio de Janeiro.
His huge, almost exclusively black-and-white murals are full of detail, and rendered in clean lines that incorporate elements of surrounding architecture. Below, Millo explains his path to artistry and why his characters are “the purest part” of him.
How did you shift from architecture to street art?
In college, I was always busy drawing, which has a been a happy refuge for me since I was a child. Over the years, this interest became more central to my life, and I gradually started to set aside my architectural work to dedicate more time to art, until I arrived where I am today. I think my background as an architect has been very important to my artistic development, and not just because it trained me to carry out physical projects, but also because my studies made the limits of architecture clear to me.
Are you referring to bureaucratic matters?
Yes. In Italy it is exceptionally frustrating to deal with bureaucracy. I recall spending absurd amounts of time on architecture projects –- not just for proposals and authorizations, but just trying to execute the projects. Whereas street art is immediate and far cheaper. That’s one thing I love about it.
How did you start making street art?
It was an unexpected foray. I started working on completely different surfaces from walls, and I must admit it was a little staggering the first time someone entrusted me with a wall. But everything came out easily –- and working at that large scale, in particular, just felt very natural. That’s when I realized that this kind of work, in these dimensions, was something I could really throw myself into.
What would you like your art to say? What are your goals?
When I make street art I like to think of myself as a highlighter. I’m often invited to paint on huge, blank walls without any windows, and in those cases it becomes pretty clear that speculative development has created hideous cityscapes that sometime encompass whole neighborhoods. So making art on those walls is not just creating something beautiful that can provoke an emotional response, but it’s also underlining systemic weaknesses. A six-story mural on a featureless wall, for example, allows everyone to see how the simple intervention of a mural can change the perception of space.
Was that the idea behind your “Habitat” project in Turin?
When I was “awarded” those 13 murals in the B.Art competition, my project “Habitat” referred directly to the space we occupy in the world. In all my work I’ve tried not just to reproduce our habitat -– in this case a kind of generic city that could evoke any city in the world –- but also to underline the relationship between the habitat and my characters, who are always awkward, the wrong size, and up to something. People have seen them as children, aliens and magical beings. To me, they’re the purest part of me, of all of us. Everything we have forgotten how to be. The thing I enjoy is how my work is read: Everyone is free to find their own meaning.
From the hardships of an Italian architect to your success as an artist: It’s a great story. Do you have any words for young people who, like you, have a project in mind?
I think that willpower goes far in some cases, and even if this seems silly to say, you have to stick with it and not give up. I realize that each one of us harbors different dreams, and it’s pretty clear that not all of those dreams can be realized. But throwing your whole self into something, even if that thing doesn’t come to fruition, is a great test. In any case, I strongly believe in possibility of back-up dreams. So that you can keep pushing, and never give up.
Carlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarl
Carlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarl
Carlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarlCarlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarlCarlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarlCarlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarlCarlo Maria Giardina – Instagram @vscocarlPhotographer Millo
Memorie urbanePhotographer Millo
This piece originally appeared on HuffPost Italy, and was translated from Italian to English.