Stik, the London grafitti artist, was in the process of finishing his second major New York City piece. Repeats of his iconic stick figure, holding hands, embellishes one of downtown’s iconic remaining water towers.
“The Union Square piece is a union of eight points of the compass, eight figures all holding hands, symbolizing the union of the four points of the compass and the four intervals. The piece faces every direction simultaneously, “ Stik explained. The yellow backgrounder water tower is visible from the nearby historic Union Square Park, site of an urban greenmarket, countless demonstrations, and home to many people.
“I had no idea there were so many people sleeping in the Square. This trip, I met some incredibly rich people and some incredibly poor people. Because I do a lot of projects around homelessness in London, I’m looking at how much of a housing problem there is in New York City, as well. I say ‘housing problem’ because people say homeless like the way they say ‘rodent problem.’ I’ve met some very interesting people sleeping rough in the Square, and these are the first New Yorkers I make contact with.”
Recent projects have taken Stik to Japan and to Jordan. Through the British Council, Stik worked with young Jordanian men and women on a cracked wall in Jabal Al Quallaa, Amaan. Two young sisters choose a theme of a bus that just been blown up. “They totally ignored my suggestions and did a radical statement piece. It really blew my preconceptions of women in the Middle East.”
More recently, Stik was in Japan, where “I have a long history. I lived there in 2000 and knew the country and culture fairly well.”
“I did a homeless project there, in which we gave my art work to homeless people through out the country. I toured three different cities signing art works – Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. There’s huge homeless population in Japan, mostly people who build shantytowns under bridges, riverside and in the parks.”
“It was good to see these people receiving something of value, where they were sought after. We made fifty thousand lithograph prints and I then saw some on line for 300 pounds. This invisible population got the attention of people from America and Britain, because they had something people wanted. It was a real pleasure to see the light being shone on an invisible community.”
As for the water tower, Stik continued, “I’ve been painting cylinders the last couple of years. I began in Brooklyn, and last year I did a giant cylinder in Miho, Japan. I really got into the idea of painting cylinders, which is an unusual shape and canvas.”
Stik has two upcoming projects in the works. “Right now, I’m spending time in my Hoxton studo. I’m painting streets again in England because I’ve been traveling a lot.” He also is collaborating with New York graffiti artist, LA2, with work on canvas. LA began his career as a ten year old graffiti artist at a Lower East Side boys club, and as a teenager worked closely with Keith Haring. He has been creating steadily since the 1980’s, and Stik said, “I am honored and excited to be working with him.’
“I am not signed to any one gallery. I’m independent, and I’m enjoying being able to work with lots of people and having the opportunities that come from this freedom.”
Words: Ilka Scobie Photo: Courtesy Stick © 2014 Artlyst