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Stik

Discover art for sale. Buy and sell prints & editions online by street artist Stik. First appearing on the streets of Hackney Wick, Stik's six-line, two dot figures have become synonymous with his name.

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Biography

Hackney-based graffiti artist STIK is known for his iconic, six-line two-dot stick figures. They have become known in public spaces around the globe. He is renowned for his androgynous six-line, two dot figures that now appear in public spaces across the world.

Beginnings

Without any formal training at art school, Stik began drawing stick figures as a young child and has never since veered from a strikingly simplistic style. Stik worked as an artist’s life model for several years, which he claims allowed him to get to grips with the human anatomy and composition.

Stik, who keeps much of his personal life private, began painting in public places and in the street in his early twenties. The street artist claims, ‘that became an education in itself. I learned from my contemporaries.’

First Works

Stik's iconic stick figures first appeared on the streets of Hackney Wick in London in the early 2000s, later spreading to Shoreditch and then west towards the rest of London. For a long time in his career as a graffiti artist, Stik was either squatting or was homeless, and lived at a St Mungo’s hostel in Hackney until 2011.

Still experimenting with his style and materials, Stik's first solo show took place in the NO: ID Gallery, a squatted art space in Shoreditch. The artist explains, ‘I was pretty broke and painted on found materials, pulling things out of rubbish bins.’ His murals of the now famous, androgynous stick/Stik figures were rendered in black and white out of necessity rather than stylistic preference. For these very early murals, all Stik required was a can of black spray paint from Pound Shop and some unwanted white household paint.

Success

In 2008, Stik had his career defining moment when he exhibited his works at famous music and art space, The Foundary in East London. His incredible rise to success is marked by a comment he made on his relationship to the venue, explaining: ‘That was a very important venue to me because I used to clean the toilets there.’

Today, Stik has a coffee table book that outlines his artistic career and has been commissioned by high calibre organisations like the Q Music Awards and The British Council.

Most Famous Works

In 2014, Stik painted his most famous work, Big Mother, a mural that was located on the side of Charles Hocking House in Action in West London, before its demolition in 2018. At 125ft, this was the tallest mural in Britain, and displayed a poignant image of two iconic Stik figures, a mother carrying her child, against a bright yellow background. Astonishingly, Stik painted this enormous mural by hand by using an airless compressor to apply the paint to the concrete.

Stik has spoken of the way that this important project aimed to address issues at the heart of displaced communities: ‘The mother is looking out to the horizon, wondering whether she’ll go once the building is demolished, while the child’s eyes are fixed on the luxury apartments being built opposite this social housing block. Obviously the child is not going to be living in those apartments – the final destination is unknown. But I also wanted to convey some sort of hope. I think that hope is probably one of the most melancholy of emotions. I tried to convey that in this piece more than most.’

Influences

Stik's famous six-line, two-dot figures are partly based on the Japanese calligraphy characters known as kanji. As a teenager he lived in Japan for nearly a year and subsequently took to the style of drawing that characterises kanji, a form of script that is related to shorthand for conveying emotion.

The graffiti artist is also inspired by the tradition of community murals and psychogeography; a concept that considers the behaviour and emotions of people in relation to their environment.

Style & Technique

Stik's pared back, yet visually striking figures, work to convey a deep sense of melancholy and emotion in their depiction of human body language. His ability to capture deeply emotive qualities with his seemingly simple technique, is what has secured his rise to fame. Speaking of why he has always portrayed his figures in this way, Stik has explained, ‘Six lines and two dots was the quickest way to draw a human figure without getting caught.’

Location and the people who in the surrounding area are extremely important factors in Stik's rationale for where he paints. Conscious not to occupy space that someone in the community might own, Stik always receives the endorsement of those who live in the area where he makes his street pieces. Most importantly, Stik's work is often community based, representing those who are most marginalised in London and anywhere else he paints.

Life & Times

While Stik keeps much of his personal life private, his identity is less hidden than comparable street artists like Banksy. He welcomes validation for his existence and his work, and therefore does not strictly keep himself out of the public eye. Presenting lectures on the social importance of Street Art and curating graffiti shows, Stik also occasionally appears outside his studio to give talks to the public and enthusiasts.

One aspect of Stik's life that is well-known is that while starting out as a graffiti artist he was homeless. During this period Stik developed an affinity to the Hackney community who helped him find his feet, and he now sees his street art as a way to give back to those who helped him.

On The Market

Important to Stik's practice is that his street art is not for sale and is free for anyone to see. The artist instead sells his studio pieces and has some noteworthy collectors such as Elton John, Bono, Brian May, Sir Phillip Green and Tinnie Tempeh.

The Stik market is dynamic, especially when he is in the news. Some of STIK's top works have sold for staggering prices, with the preserved section of Big Mother from Charles Hocking House reaching £193,750 at Philip’s New Now auction in 2018, after an estimate of just £25,000-35,000.

Stik's best editions have sold for five-figure sums, with an edition of Sleeping Baby (NHS Blue) fetching £30,000 in March 2020, against an original estimate of just £5,000-7,000.

Holding Hands (Maquette) by Stik

Holding Hands (maquette) © Stik 2020

1. £287,500 for Stik's Holding Hands (Maquette)

In September 2020, Stik’s bronze sculpture Holding Hands was unveiled in London Borough of Hackney’s Hoxton Square. The artist donated his working model, Holding Hands (Maquette), to the council to benefit their new public sculpture programme. The maquette sold for £287,500 at Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Sale in London on 23 October 2020 – well over double its high estimate.

Stik has reportedly raised over £250,000 for charities in Hackney. The artist has a long history with the borough – as a resident, an illicit street artist and an official collaborator with the local authorities. He first began making graffiti works in Hackney Wick in the early 2000s, spreading into Shoreditch and later the rest of London. In 2016, he worked with the council to design the official Hackney banner for the London Pride Parade. “I’ve been in Hackney for almost 20 years. I love this place. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere… I feel like Hackney’s home,” Stik stated in an interview with The Big Issue.

5 Works: Liberty by Stik

5 Works: Liberty © Stik 2013

2. £200,000 for Stik's Liberty

“Six lines and two dots was the quickest way to draw a human figure without getting caught,” Stik once said. The art he creates is informed by his experience of homelessness, which he struggled with on and off for many years. “I was drawing a lot,” the artist recalled. “I had carrier bags filled with drawings but when you get evicted from a squat or you get moved on… you just lose loads of stuff. For me, painting on the streets was the safest place to keep my art.” A stay at St Mungo’s Hostel, a Hackney shelter, helped him get back on his feet.

Now, Stik’s art champions activism, social causes and human connection. “Street art [is] my way of giving back to the people who helped me”. Liberty, a simplified depiction of the Statue of Liberty, was first tagged on a wall in New York City in 2013. For Stik, it is important that his art belongs in its environment and will be accepted by the local residents. “Street art isn’t just art put out into the street,” he told The Guardian. “It’s responding to the landscape. If a piece could be anywhere then what’s the point?”

Liberty also released as a series of limited-edition screen prints in five colours in 2013. A deluxe set was offered at Christie’s in London on 18 September 2019, where they achieved an auction record for Stik at the time.

Big Mother by Stik

Big Mother © Stik 2014

3. £193,750 for Stik's Big Mother

In 2014, Stik made headlines when he painted a 125-foot image of a mother and child on the side of Charles Hocking House, a council estate in West London, in protest of the building’s demolition. Bringing to light issues of uprooted communities, gentrification and lack of social housing, Big Mother was the tallest mural in Britain at the time – so large that it was visible from planes leaving Heathrow airport.

Charles Hocking House was eventually demolished in 2018 but the residents saved a smaller, life-size version of Big Mother that Stik made on the side of the estate. With Stik’s blessing, the residents pieced the smaller mural together brick by brick and offered it in Phillip’s New Now auction in London on 5 December 2018. It was estimated for £25,000-35,000 but soared to £193,750. The profits were donated to ARTification, a free art programme for residents of Charles Hocking House and the surrounding area.

Big Mother is about the importance of social housing, it’s demolition has immortalised this message,” Stik said of the sale. “Rachel and the ARTification team helped me create the original Big Mother mural and I hope that the sale of this piece will help them to continue their ground-breaking work in the community.”

Untitled (2009) by Stik

Untitled © Stik 2009