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Why former rough sleeper Stik is now a big hit as a street artist

Stik by one of the street artist’s pieces

Former rough sleeper tells of ‘direct relationship’ with streets of Westminster

Pictured: Street artist Stik

Published: 13 April 2012
by GEORGE LINDSAY-WATSON

HIS work has been bought by the Duke of Kent and Elton John, he recently spent a week with Brian May and his art is immediately recognisable.

Yet 18 months ago elusive artist Stik was organising his debut show from a homeless shelter.

The street artist, a former rough sleeper who spent months living in squats, is responsible for the towering figures with white faces that perch on impossibly high windows and lounge in doorways across the city.

His work adorns spots in Westminster including a wall in the West End’s Phoenix Garden nature reserve.

During initial forays into guerilla art, Stik wore a Banksy-style cloak of anonymity, and, although he says he is now “out”, he was reluctant to have his picture taken during an interview with the West End Extra ahead of a new exhibition of is work that opens next week.

He said: “It’s like being a rock star. In a way street art is the new punk rock, the uncensored voice of the people.”

The artist, who last year spoke out against Westminster Council’s now abandoned proposals to ban rough sleeping, said visibility had its drawbacks.

He added: “The council know who I am, the police know who I am, I’m just like, ‘yeah, it’s me, if you want to arrest me, put me in prison, you know where to find me’.”

Westminster Council takes a hardline attitude to street art, warning it will remove graffiti where it finds it.

Stik believes that by openly challenging this he can make a difference.

He said: “Street art highlights issues about property and ownership, and about aesthetics as well.”

Ten years ago, when he started painting, Stik was squatting in abandoned buildings and he believes this experience shaped him.

“While I was homeless, that’s when my most important work was produced,” he said. “Having that direct relationship to the bricks and mortar of the city, looking for shelter and getting to know the city in 3D, that’s definitely influenced the way I work with my medium.
“You get to know the little back alleys and the climbing places, the places you can get through and behind. You learn how to get to places.”

These years of “urban exploration” explain the precarious positioning of so many of Stik’s pieces.

“My old stuff is so simple, in a way kind of purer,” he said. “But I look at it now and go, ‘oh no, I want to change it’. I’ve gone back and painted things out completely because I didn’t like them. I painted a big piece in Mayfair but I didn’t like it so I painted it out.”

Stik’s new show, Walk, will be at Imitate Modern Gallery, Devonshire Street, Marylebone, from April 19 until May 10.

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