“Six lines and two dots was the quickest way to draw a human figure without getting caught.” – Stik
Stik is a British graffiti artist based in London, he has been painting all his life but only began getting recognition when he started painting his recognizable stick/Stik figures (without permission) on the street over a decade ago. He was either squatting or homeless for a good proportion of the time he has been a graffiti artist, and was at a St Mungo’s hostel in Hackney up until 2011. His murals started out in Hackney Wick in London and spread to Shoreditch and west towards to the rest of London. These days you will be hard pressed to walk around Shoreditch without catching a glimpse of one of Stik’s large murals – usually on shop shutters and walls.
Now, he has a successful coffee table book chronicling his career, he has been commissioned by the likes of Q Music Awards, The Independent (to do a collaboration with Theirry Noir) and The British Council to create works both at home and abroard; as he says about his work “it transcends all language barriers. It’s like written body language.”
A Style Born From Necessity
Stik’s murals are usually black and white stick figures with basic features and androgynous bodies; in more recent years they are typically painted with a block colour background.
The monochrome scheme for his figures emerged out of necessity, because a can of Pound Shop black spray paint and some discarded white house paint from “people who were starting to buy up properties in Hackney were using it to decorate their houses”, was all he needed. Though the Stik people are very androgynous in form their physicality and body language still manage to convey an enormous amount of emotion. This is likely thanks to Stik’s time as a life model, where he grew to understand the body and it’s expression. He says: “Beauty is in movement. That’s what it’s about. Beauty is about the way that someone moves their body. You can tell by someone’s walk if they’re angry, whether they’re happy or if they’ve just eaten. You can tell a lot about someone just by the way they’re moving their back or their eyes. There doesn’t need to be a great deal of detail there. You can see it from across the road. That’s what I’m trying to capture in my work – that direct recognition.”
Where Can You find His Work
Stik started his street art in East London while he was either squatting or living in homeless shelters, and he still has a strong connection with it and his studio where he bases himself. You can see his work in Hoxton Square, on Triangle Road in Hackney – among many locations in Shoreditch and the rest of London, as well as Bristol. In recent years he has also travelled to paint murals in Gdansk in Poland, Union Square in New York, Jabal Al Qalaa in Jodan, the remote island of Utrisia in Norway, and, in Berlin in Germany, where he has a great respect for the free attitude towards street art.
His most famous piece is ‘Big Mother’, a mural of a mother with a child clutching her sides; which at 125ft is Britain’s largest. It’s on the side of Charles Hocking House in Acton in West London and represents the residents of the council flats, while admonishing the luxury flats popping up around them. It was in an effort to highlight the necessity of affordable housing. The block of flats is due to be demolished this year.
The Tradition Behind His Art
When Stik explains his work he speaks of psychogeography (defined in 1955 as ‘the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals’), and along those lines the tradition of community murals and the now ever present battle between public and private space. He is very discerning as to where he paints his murals, which could be why his are so long in standing. Before painting he speaks to the locals and tries to get permission or at least “implied indifference.”
“Street art isn’t just art put out into the street,” he says. “It’s responding to the landscape. If a piece could be anywhere then what’s the point? The more integrated with the cityscape they are, the more they seem to belong there.”
Stik began doing street art as he said he felt invisible in the city, and this was his way of letting the world know he existed; and now, still community based it is just on a larger scale, representing all Londoners who feel marginalised: “The attitude I want to get across in my work is: ‘People live here’,” he told The Guardian. “It’s our city.”
Although Stik wanted validation of his existence, he does not want to be hounded and keeps his identity relatively under wraps. He has been hailed as the new Banksy by various newspapers but Stik’s identity is a little less hidden, “I’m no Scarlet Pimpernel,” he says. He has lectured on the social importance of Street Art at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, Bristol Museum and The Laznia Arts Centre in Gdansk. He’s also curated several graffiti shows with fellow East London ‘graffers’ and he has been known to give impromptu talks to street art enthusiasts outside his studio. But, he is cagey about his personal life and details. Unlike Banksy’s contemporary Mr Brainwash, who is open about the name his pseudonym replaces, Stik is just known as Stik now. He does admit he is in his thirties.
Most Expensive Works
Stik’s street art is not for sale, so he makes a living from his studio sales that he calls “permissions” instead of commissions. Anything that is visible from the street however, he does for free.
In March 2013 Stik sold a work at Christie’s auction house for £6,000, this record was smashed later that year in aid of The Big Issue at the Intimate Modern Gallery – ‘Look’ sold for £20,000 and ‘Raindrops’ (an archival work) sold for £18,000.
He has many notable fans, that reportedly include Elton John, Bono, Brian May, Sir Phillip Green and Tinnie Tempeh.