If you’ve visited Hackney in the last ten years, you’ll doubtless have seen them. The huge mysterious figures lurking on the sides of buildings and billboards. Deceptively simple, with just six lines each and dots for eyes, they are packed with subtle form and emotions, showing an extraordinary ability to reflect human psychology and diversity. They’re a main attraction of street art tours of the area, and the work of street artist Stik.
Having spent a number of years homeless, Stik has an intimate relationship with the street. This is something that is very evident in his murals, and that he combines effortlessly with a fine art sensibility. Although the majority of his work is still done illegally, the finished street pieces are as crisp and clean as if they had been officially commissioned, and are often embraced by local people and councils. In fact, one of his pieces in Glastonbury is so loved, that the locals have maintained the work for years without being asked.
Stik knows the City from the inside, and manages to reach seemingly superhuman locations to paint his highly stylised works. Despite his unorthodox approach to public art, lack of formal training, and flagrant disregard of planning permission, Stik has been quickly recognised as a valuable asset by the N.H.S, British Waterways, The Barbican, and the British Council, who have commissioned permanent murals by him, both in London and abroad.
He’s also a social commentator, via his regular art column in The Hackney Citizen. Stik was one of the first to document the recent London riots, actually sketching on the front line. And then creating a piece about them on the street, a week later. He regularly draws inspiration from local characters and politics for his outspoken ‘comment’ street pieces. Stik has lectured on the social importance of Street Art at London’s Central Saint Martin’s College of Art, Bristol Museum, The Laznia Arts Centre in Gdansk. He’s also curated several graffiti shows with fellow East London ‘graffers’, some of whom are notoriously reclusive.
Stik was commissioned to produce an exclusive limited edition print for the 2011 Q Music Awards, which was awarded to artists including Bono, Brian May, Noel Gallagher, Chris Martin, Gary Barlow, Jesse J, Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran.
His work was exhibited during his solo ‘Walk‘ exhibition at Imitate Modern.
He works with groups as diverse as Amnesty International, The Big Issue and Queeruption, and sells globally, but still regularly paints street pieces around the capital. Stik prefers to paint on the streets rather than on canvas, as a result his prints and canvasses are very sought after. In 2013 his canvas ‘Look’ was sold in an auction in aid of the Big Issue Foundation for £20,000.
He has recently completed the “Big Mother” in Acton, the tallest piece of street art in the UK. This almost 40 metres high mural was painted in order to highlight the crisis in affordable housing, a cause which Stik passionately supports.
“Street art isn’t just art put out into the street, 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
Stik has published a book with Foyles Publishing, which you can purchase in our online shop.
Interview on Sky News:
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Stik murals around the world