Interview with Italian artist Millo at his show ‘Nero’ with Benjamin Murphy at the Hoxton Gallery
Having met at an art event in Luxembourg earlier in the year Italian artist Millo and London’s Benjamin Murphy thought that their work went so well together they may as well create a show and that’s what they’ve managed to do. The ‘Nero’ event at the Hoxton Gallery is a blend of styles which mixes together perfectly.
Murphy normally known for his drawings with electrical tape has evolved his style by painting onto canvas, still black and white as the tape art had to be. Millo too draws in black and white, an architectural student in a past life it’s no suprise that he often draws buildings and cityscapes, often adding his trademark crewcutted character to the scene. “Most of the time the character that I draw is me but sometimes even if it looks like me, it isn’t.” He always draws the same character but sometimes the scenes are taken from ideas and stories told to him by other people. “I always drew with this character, I make him do everything” he explains.
For Millo the show is the current culmination of his journey from Mesagne, a sleepy town in the southern tip of Italy, to the heart of London’s art scene “it’s like living in suburbia” he told me, “far away from where everthing happens”. Initially leaving for university in Pescara, the change of scenery and the proximity to more cultural opportunities allowed him to grow up in what he describes as “a different creative ambience”. “I started just doing stuff for myself, I didn’t have it in my mind that I’d be doing it as a job, I just painted because I liked to paint” he said of those early creative years.
Deciding that art is something he could make a good fist of he eventually left having previously built his name with shows in Italy and Europe before moving to England in July this year. With the economic crisis in his home country the work wasn’t available and so he decided to take matters into his own hands “even now it’s quite impossible to find a job in Italy if you are a graduate, a lot of my friends graduated in law and in languages and now they work in restaurants, there is just no work” he told me.
For Millo though perhaps a blessing in disguise as the lack of opportunities for more traditional employment provided more time for the development of his own art, “I had lots of time to do my stuff” he said “in Italy a lot of my friends are doing very good stuff because they have more time and because they have to survive this economic situation they try to invent new work and new activities.” The downturn in the economy led to an upturn in art and Millo found himself painting more intensively eventually winning a national competition and selling the subsequent artwork for 1050 Euros “it was the first art I’d ever sold in my life” he told me. “It was a lot of money for me so I thought maybe I could do it as a job, I took part in expositions, moved around Italy and Europe and now I’m here” he said as he sat in the rustic surroundings of Shoreditch’s Hoxton Gallery.
Working with Murphy things just seemed to click and after a time painting together in Luxembourg, living in the same digs and producing some work together it became obvious that their styles gelled well. An artist from a little closer to home, London based but from the great county of Yorkshire, Murphy had previously made his name as an artist drawing portraits on walls and glass only using electrical tape. He is a recognisable face in the art scene of the capital and a regular contributor and collaborator with examples of his work never far away.
“I got some really good feedback from the work I did in Luxembourg so we decided to do something together” said Millo reflecting on when they first worked together. The Hoxton Gallery seemed the obvious place having previously exhibited there in July “each piece either starts in his mind or mine, it’s quite spontaneous and is the way I also work in the streets” he said on the way the two worked together. Some of the pieces it could be argued are quite surreal and Millo points to one example which shows a city growing up around a construction site in which dinosaur bones have been found “it’s a crazy idea but you can only do these things if you are spontaneous” he says.
A lot of the work in the show deserves a closer look, one will build on what the other has done and much of the work has some delightful little details hidden within. The piece featuring the dinosaur bones is now available as a print and features little nods to other artists from the area. For Millo the show represents the last hurrah before moving back to Italy to work on other projects and for Ben the latest opportunity to show the evolution of his style to a wider and appreciative audience.
The show lasts until 31st December 2013 at the Hoxton Galley in London. Millo was interviewed at the gallery on Tuesday 17th December.