Seven months after the act of vandalism that irreparably damaged The Lost Giant, the mural painting that Welsh-born, but naturalised Australian street artist Stormie Mills had created in 2018 thanks to the collaboration between Florence Biennale and the Municipality of Florence, the artist has returned to Via Villamagna. Stormie was true to his word, since already in the aftermath of the damage, he had let it be known from Australia that he was ready 'to do it again as soon as possible'. And so it was.
The unveiling of the new, unprecedented mural painting entitled The difference between synchronicity & coincidence took place this morning in the presence of Jacopo Celona, Director General of the Florence Biennale, Cosimo Guccione, Councillor for Sport, Politiche Giovanili, Beni Comuni e Città della Notte, Donata Meneghello, President of the Filarmonica Rossini, Michele Nannelli, President of the Canottieri Firenze and Serena Perini, President of Florence's District 3.
In a message written for the occasion, the Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella said: 'We are grateful to the artist for having returned to Florence a few months after his work was damaged as he had promised and for having donated another mural to the city. He has shown that art is stronger than the stupidity of those who, for fun or out of ignorance, ruined his previous creation. Stormie is a world-famous visual artist and we are delighted that Florence can once again host one of his new mural paintings'.
The mural depicting The Lost Giant in a boat with the colours of the Florence Rowing Club, had been created by Mills on a wall in Via Villamagna, in a place of youth aggregation - in Florence's District 3 -, near the Kassel primary school and in a facility that also houses the Filarmonica Rossini, the offices of SAS (Servizi alla Strada) and Publiacqua.
This time, the new project stems from the artist's strong desire to create, in the same location as the previous one, a larger mural in which the faces of historical figures of the Società Canottieri Firenze appear together with some of the musicians of the Filarmonica Rossini. It is a project that aims to be as inclusive as possible and is linked to the historical past of both realities (of the Canottieri and of the Filarmonica), in an ideal embrace between sport and music.
As stated on the artist's website, Stormie's works "draw on a deep sense of isolation and yet each character seems to carry a message of hope. These opposing elements in Stormie’s practice imbue his characters with a palpable presence and humanity capturing the tenderness of the human condition that people connect with".
Stormie Mills is a visual artist, initially known for his whimsical characters originating from a very limited variety of colours, who has created major public works in streets all over the world, from Perth to the UK, from the US to Europe and Asia. His most recent works include his iconic Bunnyman character in a series of four-metre high pop works that populated the streets of the Brisbane International Arts Festival: a body of work that was also exhibited at the Perth Fringe Festival and the prestigious international exhibition Sculptures By The Sea, where Stormie received the Kids' Choice Prize as the most popularly voted artist. Today, for Florence to have an entire mural created by the 53-year-old artist can only give rise to pride and gratitude, as the work has been donated (and not sold) to the entire city, thanks to the artist's own sensitivity.
The realisation of the new mural was made possible by the organisation of the Florence Biennale, with the collaboration of the Municipality of Florence (Assessorato allo Sport, Politiche Giovanili, Beni Comuni e Città della Notte) and the technical sponsorship of Industria Toscana Vernici.
About his new work, The difference between synchronicity & coincidence, Stormie Mills stated: 'Two philosophies that inspired my thinking in creating this work were: “When someone does something bad, do something good”. Itʼs something I think many of us can do, it doesnʼt have to always be grand gestures, but it always makes you feel better and perhaps retrains our neural pathways, so we arenʼt catching the bad feelings. If we all did this a little bit once in a while imagine the world we would recreate. The other is Bruce Leeʼs philosophy: “be like water”. Water is fluid, it takes the shape of its container, it reshapes the hardest of things through denudation. It is the purest form of energy transfer and it is one of the most powerful forces of nature. The Arno River that has cut its way through Firenze has been used by the Società Canottieri Firenze since 1886. The rowers making their way up or down the river, that repetition and rhythm of moving forward, rolling the wrist dipping the oar in the water, pushing away with the legs, feathering the oar and repeat this synchronicity of motions becoming a metronome of pace linked for me to the Filarmonica Rossini. Both share this space, both require a focus of timing in the process to make the collective outcome. An orchestra, like the rowers have to practice, have to repeat their processes, have to go over things to make them right and here is where the opportunity came from something bad: in a very literal sense they went over something done before, it was about someone lost and it gave me the chance to revisit a place, its people and with the help and drive of the people of the Florence Biennale supported by the Municipality of Florence (Assessorato allo Sport, Politiche Giovanili e Città della Notte) to make something, to do good.
In this process I realised I was no longer lost, what I was doing was no longer about not having place, because I was aware that people make places, this recent past is now replenished by a historical past, the figures are all referenced from people in the history of both these realities so in this work they have been brought together as they are in this space.
So I see it as something that was intended to hurt, to damage is like a scar it is now stronger where the hurt was and as a result has only made us stronger as people'.
'We are very happy that Stormie has strongly wished to "repair" the damage he has suffered by renewing that message of understanding and tolerance that is also expressed through his extraordinary creations,' said Jacopo Celona, General Director of the Florence Biennale. 'What happened did not only affect the artist, but an entire city that makes tolerance and civil values a bulwark also of culture. Mills' work is an extraordinary legacy for all of us in a symbolic place in the city that expresses precisely those values through the synergy between art, sport and music'.
'This work is a representation of an ideal embrace between music and sport because the artist has painted, together, the faces of some of the Canottieri's historical figures and the musicians of the Filarmonica Rossini' emphasised Cosimo Guccione, the councillor for sport and youth policies. 'After all, these are two worlds that are close to each other: music as a soundtrack is essential for the Olympic Games. And in music and sport, young people benefit from the knowledge process, they socialise and can express all their talent and creativity'.
'With admiring emotion' said Donata Meneghello, President of the Filarmonica Rossini, 'we have followed every gesture of the great artist Stormie Mills in bringing to life the great new masterpiece of street art in our home. The artist was inspired by old photographs of the historic associations that inhabit and animate the suburbs on the edge of Anconella. Skilful and quick brushstrokes, essential red and white colour for an extraordinary portrait of families, rowers and musicians lined up on the long yellow wall. Faces of everyone and no one, so expressive in the serious static nature of the still-image, but in which we can recognise ourselves: we respectful and current custodians of illustrious realities for the history and identity of Florence. As the artist says "it is the people who create the places"; here we are... a garrison of shared urban culture, made of music and sport. Thank you Stormie, for this gift in friendship and trust'.
Florence Biennale Media Office