5 Year Print Market Review 2023

Sleeping
Baby

Stik’s Sleeping Baby print series was released, alongside a mural, as a fundraiser for Homerton hospital. The series depicts Stik’s stickman figure on its side with eyes closed. The image evokes a person in care of the hospital—appearing vulnerable but resting—as well as making an appeal on behalf of a fragile NHS.

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Meaning & Analysis

Stik’s tender Sleeping Baby series originates from his mural painted on Homerton Hospital, with the 100-print issue released as a fundraising tool. The series originates in a mural painted by STIK on a wall belonging to Homerton Hospital in Hackney, London. The 100 prints (25 in NHS blue, red, silver and yellow respectively) were originally sold to fundraise for the hospital alongside the unveiling of the mural, with buyers queuing overnight for the chance to purchase.

The series depicts a trademark six-line stickman figure lying on its side with its eyes closed. With one hand clasping the scalp and another cushioning the head, the figure is at once vulnerable and secure, simultaneously at peace and in danger. While we know the figure depicted is a baby thanks to the print’s title, the figure’s construction is no different to the classic stickman figure in every piece by the artist. Viewed in isolation, this could be a representation of any human in repose.

The mural, painted in ‘NHS Blue’, as is one of the four prints from the series, can be read as an ode to the sanctuary offered by the National Health Service, with the piece’s figure appearing to rest serenely, cushioned by a sea of colour. On the other hand, the fragility of the stickman could allude to a vulnerable National Health Service, which STIK perceives to be just as fragile as the figure depicted in Sleeping Baby: “The NHS is our baby. It is very vulnerable, and we the people need to take care of it”. At the time of the junior doctor’s strike of 2016, the image was used on placards alongside slogans including “Hands Off The NHS”. Homerton hospital has personal significance for STIK; he attests to visiting the hospital on several occasions in times of need: “They saved my life a few times, stitched me back together,” he says.

The anonymity of the artist’s stickmen is no accident; the protection that this figure needs invites the viewer’s identification and empathy. The image’s marriage of personal and political significance is potently reflective of the constant coalescing of the universal and the intimate in Stik’s work.

10 Facts About Stik's Sleeping Baby

Sleeping Baby (NHS Blue) by Stik

Sleeping Baby (NHS Blue) © Stik, 2015

1. The series is an ode to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

The Sleeping Baby series is based on a mural Stik painted on Homerton Hospital in London, his local hospital. At the hospital, members of the public queued in their thousands to pick up a signed edition of the print. Stik explained the philanthropic motive behind this project: “As an artist I’m acting as a representative of my community, showing fondness and love for an institution we all need, and expressing its vulnerability – and strength also”.

Sleeping Baby (silver) by Stik

Sleeping Baby (silver) © Stik, 2015

2. The Sleeping Baby image was used on protest placards during the junior doctors' strike of 2016.

After his original mural was painted in 2015, Stik's Sleeping Baby became the mascot for striking junior doctors in the UK. With the Sleeping Baby image at the centre of their placards, text banners around the image read "The NHS is our baby", "Hands off the NHS", and "Stop privatisation".

Sleeping Baby (red) by Stik

Sleeping Baby (red) © Stik, 2015

3. The subject of the series speaks to the fragility of the NHS.

In front of a boldly coloured background, Stik's cutesy figure appears in the centre of the composition dozing. With eyes closed in sleep, the curled up stick-figure rests its head on its hands. Contrary to a lot of Stik's animated figures, Sleeping Baby appears vulnerable in this sleeping state, speaking to the fragility of the NHS.

Holding Hands (blue) by Stik

Holding Hands (blue) © Stik, 2020

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