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Stik is an anonymous British street artist whose work features in public spaces all around the world, from London to Germany, Norway, New York and Jordan. The artist’s name stemmed from his simplistic stick figures which have now become his trademark.
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A brief history of Stik art
Born mid-1980s London, Stik started painting murals in his hometown of Hackney in 2001. Claiming to have always drawn but had no formal art education, Stik learnt instead from other London street artists, and uses his past experiences of homelessness to explore themes of insecurity and community in the urban environment.
Street art was my way of giving back to the people who helped me’ – Stik
Stik spent a period of his life homeless, sleeping on sofas and in abandoned buildings, often experiencing violence and danger on the streets. In 2009, he relocated to St. Mungo’s hostel in Hackney, and found that street art gave him a purpose and focus.
Since then he has become one of the fondest names of London’s graffiti culture, enjoying commercial success as well as popular opinion support, thanks to his conscientious attitude towards creating art within existing communities.
“I try to articulate the persistence of community, but also its frailty. I think that comes across in a lot of my pieces: the persistence of the vulnerable, and the melancholy of hope and tenacity” – Stik
Creating characters to convey emotion
Stik art confronts his audience with simple and unassuming imagery. Simple lines and shapes reflect the qualities of children’s drawings, yet figures are packed with symbolism.
His art looks back its audience. Showing no definitive gender, class or age, figures gain their character from the ways in which they interact with one another and with their location. They have no mouths, made only to observe in silence.
Initially, these simplistic figures served a practical purpose. They only required a few lines and dots of black paint, making creation convenient and minimising the risk of prosecution. They are also loosely based on the Japanese calligraphic characters known as kanji.
“I lived in Japan for almost a year in my late teens and picked up this style of drawing, which is closely connected to writing as a shorthand for conveying emotion” – Stik
Stik’s works can bring huge emotional responses, such as a sense of questioning or longing. The forlorn figures can be seen as a reflection of his experience of homelessness.
“Body language is really like a direct language… transitioning that to lines on a page or on a wall strikes directly to your heart” – Stik
Why buy Stik art as an investment
While his street art is painted all over the globe for free, Stik has also participated in sold-out group and solo exhibitions worldwide, and his works have been known to raise tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
A growing number of individuals are choosing to invest in Stik, and his value is rising. Bound, a huge sculpture, raised £35,000 at Christie’s Prints and Multiples auction in September 2017. In March 2018, his painting Little Big Mother sold for £52,500.
Stik art hangs in the homes of Elton John, Bono, Chris Martin, Brian May and even the Duke of Kent. He has also won the hearts of the general public – his work ‘A Couple Hold Hands in the Street’ was recently named in a poll by Samsung as one of Britain’s top 20 favourite works of art.
“A lot of my work is loaded with a kind of melancholy… but I do try to put a positive or a light bit of gravitas in it so people can actually relate to it and it feels like something human” – Stik
Working within communities
Working from his East London studio, Stik also takes part in street art projects across the world, many of which are self-funded. He also collaborates with hospitals, charities and homeless organisations to raise money for their cause.
Unlike other street artists who use their work to express their personal views, Stik’s art is much more focused on the communities he works within. Each location is carefully chosen, and the artist returns to his paintings as often as he can to keep them clean and maintained.
“Street art is really an important medium because it’s completely uncensored. It’s an environmental medium. Actually, you are using your environment. You are using the city as your medium. The street art scene is dialogue.”- Stik
Stik’s approach to public spaces is careful and considered, and the artist takes the time to collaborate with local communities before creating any art in a new location. This may contribute to the longevity of his pieces, since the more integrated they are in the surrounding space, the longer they tend to stay undisturbed on the wall.
‘You have to work with the building and the street, so it becomes a real collaboration with the city. If you’re just slapping your image on a surface, you’re not really engaging.’- Stik
His most iconic mural is Big Mother, painted on a condemned council tower block on the Charles Hocking House council estate in West London in 2014. It is the tallest mural in Britain to date, took over nine months of planning, and Stik painted everything by hand.
The 125-foot image of a mother and child addresses issues surrounding gentrification and uprooted communities.
“The mother is looking out to the horizon, wondering where 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.”