The Big Issue Stik
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The Big Issue is a collection of posters produced by STIK as part of an initiative to transform Big Issue sellers into art dealers. The 75,000 prints could only be found in editions of the magazine, released on March 11th 2013. The magazine, bought by vendors for £1.25 per copy and sold for £2.50, was founded as an initiative to provide opportunities for the homeless community.
Describing the figure in the print as ‘just standing, looking’, STIK describes restarting work on the print due to dissatisfaction with a lack of ‘balance’ in his original composition. The print depicts a stickman standing squarely, arms dangling, looking forlornly down to the right. The project was funded by an advertising company that failed to gain STIK’s permission before using his work in a campaign. Together with removing the advert, they agreed to fund the poster project.
STIK intended to give back to the homeless community with this series of posters. The artist was himself homeless in 2011 and has stated that his stick men were influenced by this turbulent experience, reflecting the status of the homeless in their presence in the streets yet invisibility in society: “Being homeless is one of the most debilitating things that can happen to an individual. All the support systems rely on you having a home. My stick figures don’t have mouths, they are silent, but people see them. Most homeless people are invisible as well as silent. The Big Issue gives them a voice and I hope this collaboration reminds people that the people selling The Big Issue are trying really hard to help themselves and to get out there and speak to them.”
STIK’s vision of street art is predicated on chance encounter and interaction; street art is an “ongoing conversation”. He is known to revisit existing works, not only to maintain them but to evolve them, for example by changing the direction of a stickman’s gaze. The method of distribution of the Big Issue poster affirms the artist’s vision of art as a continuous dialogue. The only way to get hold of a print was by purchasing the magazine by meeting a Big Issue vendor in person. Moreover, STIK toured Bristol, Birmingham and London, meeting with vendors on the day of the launch, signing posters and adding small illustrations to the prints, consequently not allowing his art to stay still for long.
Why is The Big Issue so important?
Another series of enormous social and personal significance, The Big Issue is a key milestone in STIK’s career as a record of the influence of the artist’s experience of homelessness on his iconic stickman figure. It also signals how, in STIK’s oeuvre, the mode of distribution is as important as composition, manifesting the artist’s work as an ongoing conversation borne out on the street.
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