Stormie Mills Creates Street Art Sanctuary at Melbourne's Cullen Hotel
Australian street artist Stormie Mills is leaving his mark on The Cullen Hotel creating a street art suite exploring concepts of isolation and the human condition. He joins internationally renowned artists D*Face, Swoon and Blek Le Rat, who have previously painted other rooms of the hotel. “The Cullen has always been a sanctuary for expressive art, which is why street art is such a great fit," says the hotel's General Manager, Alicia Brown. We spoke to the internationally renowned artist about his inspiration, what it's like to paint indoors and the characters he creates with his art work.
How did you get inspiration for the character you drew in the Cullen hotel suite?
Stormie Mills: I've stayed at the Cullen, I know the view really well and the surrounding areas. I wanted to somehow work with the landscape and the outside, as well as on the wall and with the books. The hotel really is a strong part of the immediate landscape — it's tall and stands up above most of the other buildings. Working on the fifth floor, there's a horizon line of buildings outside. I wanted to work from that line with the idea of someone floating above the rooftops. The Cullen has lots of art books, in the suites there's always four or five of them on artists that have stayed there or Australian artists. I came up with the idea to use the books to make a bridge from the bookshelf to the corner of the wall again across that horizon line. So I went to book and thrift stores and collected old books that had interesting titles, ones that I felt would represent ideas or feelings & serendipity played a part because there was titles like Undefeated, People & Places, Angry Dust and Three Goats on a Bender (which also became the title of the work, because when I opened it the first line read "Marjorie knew she was the best thing in the hotel…")
As a street artist how did you alter your mindset to paint in a an enclosed space?
Its not a whole lot different from working outside nowadays, I use the same paints in my studio as I do to paint walls, technically I work in the same process. Working on walls outside in the landscape is a big part of how I came to be where I am, as a kid looking at the book Subway Art for the first time I was struck by Martha Cooper's pictures of trains that people had painted and the difference they made to the environment they were in, it had a huge effect on me. I think for the first time I realized that art can change our environment for the better as well as make us feel emotionally better, so bringing that into an enclosed space, for me is about surface and texture. Most importantly composition within the space, I think like this working on a canvas, where the character is on the canvas is as important as the character itself. It's a metaphor for our lives, how you see is what you are, where you are is who you are.
Tell us about your signature characters.
I work on the concept that I'm trying to paint portraits but they are my idea of an emotional portrait of the subject, for the most part I'm painting people I see, my impression of them, how I saw them and paying my respect to them. I tend to focus on street people, those that have lived a harder life but the quality I find so admirable in them is their tenacity, their will to keep going, I try to take it as far as I can even using media like dirt to mix into the paint so that the painting works for me on a few levels. My theory on colour is that black equals dirt, white equals the attempt to remove dirt, gray equals the cityscape and silver equals dreams.
Your work runs alongside the works of D*Face, Swoon and Blek le Rat (in other hotel suites), how does it feel to be selected among them and what is your perspective on their work?
I didn’t get to see the other suites, I didn't want to be influenced or affected by them in any subconscious way. I've only since been in the D*Face suite which I thought was really strong and graphic, much like his work. Blek and I have been friends for a good while, we kept bumping into each other in different cities around the world both working on similar things or shows, so we became good friends. I have a huge admiration for him as a person and his work extends this. Swoons work is something I've liked for a long time also. I feel very honoured to be amongst such company.
Street art has been gaining a lot more visibility within the last few years, where do you see the future of street art?
I think it's just going to keep evolving, getting better, becoming more refined and hopefully more diverse, I think in the last ten years the impact of the internet has allowed trends to affect the zeitgeist of street art a little too much, so as it matures even more, hopefully it will become more introspective, it will be better for this I think. Also as time passes more people all those people that want to encourage the work of street artists will be in a position to do so in greater ways that will see it bloom even more and do greater things affecting our environment so much more for the better.