In February 2019, iconic street artist Stony was diagnosed with a glioblastoma grade 4 brain tumour, an almost identical condition to his father, Antonio Russo. Shockingly, the tumour was not hereditary and is only diagnosed in around 2,000 people a year in the UK. With the average survival rate for Glioblastoma being only around 18 months, this news shook the artist to his core. However, he never allowed his condition to define him and looked to his father’s journey for inspiration all the way until his tragic passing earlier this year.
A true family man, Stony was incredibly close to his father who was known as the Italian “Del Boy” for his numerous impressive business ventures. Following in his father’s footsteps, he opened a restaurant when his son Oscar was 6 months old and named it Oscars, which is now an established Italian with 25 successful years behind it. Tragically, Russo passed away in 2007.
“He admired his dad because his dad came over with nothing and made it again so he kind of knew he was from the right blood of not giving up,” James Ryan, a close friend of Stony who represents his art today, tells HUNGER about the artist’s life and legacy.
Stony never allowed the cards that life had dealt him to put him down, he always rose up to the challenge and used it to power his insatiable passion for the arts. “Even when he had the diagnosis, he was still very upbeat, very positive,” says James. “That’s when his art really started to come alive.” Despite going through “very dark moments” he found motivation in the premise of inspiring others. After people all over the world empathised with his condition, he realised he could do “something positive with his art.”
However, life hadn’t always been plain sailing for the street artist. After being diagnosed with dyslexia and autism, he found it difficult to express himself and used art as his creative outlet. All of those pent-up emotions spilt effortlessly onto his canvas’ and helped build up the deeply personal art he’s known for today. Finding inspiration from all walks of life, it was the early works of Kanye West that really caught the attention of the painter and uncovered his adoration for art.
Before beginning his artistic journey, he took an interest in racing cars and even began racing in Formula Three, a third-tier class of open-wheel formula racing. Sadly, he would later be involved in a major accident and was told he couldn’t race again. But this is when his art began to take on a life of its own. “A lot of that energy, both frustration and passion would then go onto canvas,” comments James.
Respectably, the painter was never in it for the money. Despite the incredible demand from galleries for his pieces, financial gain was never a priority due to his myriad of successful businesses. “He could just be himself and had that attitude of ‘whether I make it or not, I don’t really care. I’m doing this because I love doing it.’” He was a purist in every sense of the word, never guided by potential fame or fortune, just the undisputed love for his craft.
James explains that, ultimately, Stony hoped his legacy will inspire those going through traumatic times in their lives to turn those difficult periods into beauty. “Even when the chips are down, and you haven’t been dealt the best cards, you can still make something of it.”
His team are continuing to work with charities and carry on the exponential generous efforts of the late artist, ensuring his legacy never dies. “We’re continuing to work with charities. Specifically, brain cancer charities and helping in some way shape or form find cures for people so they don’t go through what he went through.”