This year’s Edinburgh Book Festival saw Stik promote his self-titled book that records his work to date thematically and chronologically, mirroring his development, focus and ultimate success as an artist.
The theme of ‘community’ features heavily, as you might expect from a man whose life has been turned round by the help of various communities – activists, squatters and artists – as well as his own plentiful talent.
As mentioned in the foreword by Anthony Haden-Guest, obvious parallels, and potentially lazy comparisons, can be drawn with artists like Keith Haring. But truthfully this art has as much in common with ancient figure drawings seeking to capture a time-specific snapshot of society.
His trademark ‘6 lines and 2 dots’ approach that was born, like many artists of the period, out of a desire to paint quickly and undetected, has become synonymous with London.
Not concerned with superfluous detail, his stick men demonstrate an expression of a struggle in a way that can be so powerful it genuinely makes you empathise with his characters, and by association, the people and communities that they represent.
Oddly, they also help cultivate a feeling of sorrow and regret for the buildings on which they can be found.
In this regard, one of the most interesting issues Stik has addressed through his book is the gentrification of London. These images are fascinating, essentially documenting the seemingly bottomless pit of money thrown at London in the past decade, and showing how the city’s face has changed forever and rarely for the better.
Among the pages of great photos and snippets of context setting, lies an interesting point about the success and subsequent commoditisation of street art.
We’ve all heard of the ‘Banksy’ auctions where a section of wall has literally been sliced from the side of a building, preserved for admiration quite possibly in the flash nearby apartments sprouting from the rubble of a soon to be forgotten London.
In other cases art can be removed or used in advertising without the permission of the artist, who will receive very little or nothing in return.
The popularity of street art has boomed in the last decade, and with it bloggers (ahem…), photographers, talented and sometimes not-so-talented artists and hangers on.
Sadly, It could be said it is a victim of its own success in a way. Nowadays its popularity is often been pointed at as being complicit in setting the ball in motion for gentrification. Especially ironic given it’s anti-establishment and anarchic roots.
For more on this, check out RJ Rushmore at Vandalog’s scathing and hilarious recent article on the art of London Kaye.
It should be said that it is clear that this is not the intention nor the outcome of Stik’s work , often created to highlight and stand up against this issue.
Back to the book though, it’s an excellent ‘read’. I particularly enjoyed his collaboration section and work with Thierry Noir, a creative coming together of two of my favourite artists and styles, at my favourite wall in London.
Likewise his early work and pieces highlighting the plight of London’s homeless I found among the most powerful. His work with the Big Issue effectively turning vendors into Stik art dealers was a touching and inspirational project.
Included at the back of the 200 odd page hardback is a poster of a Stik piece, an unexpected bonus. This particular copy came signed with its own small scale Stik, which is now a treasured possession at UKB HQ…
In short, go out and get yourself a copy – £20 well spent.