Stik is an anonymous British Street Artist, famous for his iconic depictions of unassuming stick figures painted on walls, doors, gates and water towers around the world. Born in the mid-1980s in London, United Kingdon, the Artist, like his contemporary Banksy, Stik has revealed little about his personal and early life aside from beginning his graffiti journey in 2001. Rapidly becoming a much-talked-about street artist, Stik has persisted to remain careful and respectful of the community who will live amidst his work after its completion. His simple and honest stick figures tell the story of his community, and he extends that by working with hospitals, charities, and homeless organizations.
Stik recalls that he “started drawing stick people when I was old enough to pick up a pencil, and I just never really stopped”, he continues and explains how he has ‘always (been) drawn to a very simplistic style. I never went to art school but I did work as an artist’s life model for many years, which gave me a good grounding in composition and anatomy. I started painting in the street in my early twenties, and that became an education in itself. I learned from my contemporaries.’
Meant to convey feelings of insecurity in an urban setting, the Artist paints from his own experience of homelessness as a young man. “A lot of my work is loaded with a kind of melancholy,” he has said. “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 became homeless around the year 2000 and underwent destitution for a period of around 10 years. Stik regularly counted on his friends for a place to stay and also spent many nights in abandoned buildings. He lived through a lot of violence on the streets and remembers numerous times when he felt his life was in danger.
In the early 2000s, the London street-art scene was mostly centered in the East London borough of Hackney. ‘We were all aware of each other’s work, even if we never met. And our styles developed alongside each other,’ he says. Although it would take time for Stik to perfect the six-line, two-dot figures for which he is now known, they are loosely based on the Japanese calligraphic characters known as “kanji”. He lived in Japan for just under a year where he studied and picked up this style of drawing which is associated with writing as a shorthand for conveying emotion. In the early part of this century, his figures began popping up around East London. Stik’s approach to public spaces is mindful and considered. He prefers to harmonize with the nearby architecture and location and has argued that he would never bomb a street or community. Stik’s beliefs concerning the nature of graffiti and art reflect a traditional, romantic ideology of the street. “Artistic statements should be free from censorship,” he says. For Stik, the community relationship is central and essential to the whole enterprise of making street art, he states that “I always get the endorsement of the people who actually live there. That’s the most important thing.’
In 2008, Stik’s work was exhibited at The Foundry, a legendary East London music, and Artspace, which closed just a couple of years later. ‘That was a very important venue for me because I used to clean the toilets there,’ says the artist. For his street pieces, he starts on paper and then makes 3D-Maquettes. In his work, he attempts to articulate and express the persistence of community as well as its flaws, combined with the endurance of the vulnerable and the melancholy of hope. Ultimately, his art is about helping to give voice to marginalized communities and to draw attention to people saying “We are still here and we are hanging on”. Stik has gone on to participate in a number of exhibitions worldwide.
Stik softly challenges and confronts his audience with the most unassuming imagery possible. The heads are round. The eyes are dots. Bodies are rectangles and simple lines become arms, hands, and legs. He argues that “Body language is really like a direct language,” and “Transitioning that to lines on a page or on a wall strikes directly to your heart.”. They are not, however, merely stick figures. His characters become a type of emotional shorthand to reflect his mental state and emotions. They have no mouths, they’re silent and are meant to observe. He wants to create art that looks back at his audience. Stik’s characters and their postures seem to give the impression of longing, sometimes even despair.