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“I felt invisible and it was my way of showing I’m here” – Stik
Stik is a British street artist known for his socially-conscious murals of cunningly-simple figures. Loosely based on the Japanese calligraphic characters, kanji, his style is deceptively simplistic with an almost child-like quality, yet his figures are packed with symbolism and emotion. Gender, class and age are undefined and they are devoid of any facial features, yet nevertheless interact with each other and their location to evoke a powerful emotional response.
Born in 1979, the artist maintains an anonymous persona, revealing very little about his personal life, although is open about his period of homelessness in his early twenties. It was then that he started to paint on the streets of Hackney, which at the time was the focal point for the London street art scene. Although he had no formal art training, he learned from his contemporaries, an experience he says was an education in itself. “We were all aware of each other’s work, even if we never met. And our styles developed alongside each other”. His street painting was his way of giving something back to the Hackney community, who he says helped him get back on his feet.
The relationship with community is an intrinsic part of Stik’s work. His art is focused on the communities within which he works; each location is carefully chosen and before making any street pieces he always seeks the endorsement of the people who live in the community, regardless of whether he has the permission of local authorities. He also returns to his paintings as often as he can to keep them clean and maintained. “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”, he says.
Stik has now become highly sought after and his works hang in the private collections of the likes of Elton John, Bono, Chris Martin, Brian May and the Duke of Kent. In March 2018 his ‘Little Big Mother’ painting fetched £52,000 at Christie’s ‘Prints & Multiples’ auction. He is equally popular with the general public: his group and solo exhibitions around the world are sell-outs and his Brick Lane street painting, ‘A Couple Hold Hands in the Street’, was recently named amongst Britain’s Top 20 favourite works of art.
Stik’s most iconic mural is ‘Big Mother’, painted in 2014 on a condemned council tower block in West London. It 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.”
Stik lives and works in London.