Tomorrow night sees the first solo show by Stika at Number Six Dray Walk, so we thought we’d catch up with him beforehand.
Read on for the rest of our interview..
So Stika, you’ve been on our radar for a long time now since before you moved from Brighton to London, as you started out tagging, graffing and painting trains from the age of 13 with all the south coast graffiti royalty of the time. What was it like for you going round with these guys and getting involved with it from such a young age?
I remember it being pretty exciting to be able to hang out with the older more pro active writers at the time. You know what it’s like when you’re 13, you wanna hang out with the older guys, but you’re usually not allowed. However for some reason I was permitted to sneak in and slowly become part of the team. It was a strange situation where I was really pushing my style hard and trying to improve but the reality was that those guys had to keep me in check and let me know when my graff wasn’t up to scratch. So it was at this time that I was being taught graffiti, how to structure pieces properly and of course deal with everything else that came with it.
Do you think the graffiti scene has changed a lot since then? It seems as if everyone wants to be a ‘street artist’ and the art of graffiti in it’s original form seems to have died a little, what are your thoughts on this?
Pffffff. Don’t even get me started! I’m totally down for the art scene, I’m ready, I’m involved and I enjoy it. But yes, it is painful to hear people referring to ‘non-graffiti’ as graffiti. Seriously, if I have to hear one more ‘street artist’ tell me about ‘how they used to do graff’ I’ll literally cover them in their own wheat paste and stick them to a wall in Shoreditch. Maybe I’m on to a new style here?!
Woah, nice rant. Must have touched a nerve there! You recently graduated from the prestigious Central St Martins, do you think studying Design influenced your own progression from primarily painting walls and tagging to the kind of work you produce now, which is quite a contrast in style, technique and approach?
One hundred per cent. CSM is an incredible place, although I don’t feel that I learnt anything that technical there, they taught us how to think though, and actually carry out our ideas. This is what has benefited me since; now when I set out to do a project there is a clear beginning to end process, and of course problems come along and I’m able to calmly overcome them. I think a massive part of being a creative is being a good trouble shooter.
Aside from those who knew you from your graffiti days, your name really hit the big time when you painted the ‘Don’t Hate on Kate’ wall in Shoreditch in the run up to the Royal Wedding. It got a lot of press coverage and you then went on to sell ‘Don’t Hate on Kate’ and ‘Marry Harry’ prints. Were you hoping for an invite to the wedding at the time?
Yep, an invite! OK not best man or anything but usher would’ve been sweet. It did get a lot of press, and I’d like to do a few more big ones like that by Christmas. To be honest the main memerable moment was when Kate Moss’ PR team tweeted me back saying “Thanks, I really love it xxx” – It wasn’t for you love!
Ever the East London socialite, one of the collections of work on display at your up coming show Stik A Rock, are funny phrases used amongst the people you party with. Aside from it’s influence on this body of work, do you think the night life has a big part to play in the current creative scene?
Hahahaha! If you mean does partying help creative people produce great work I’d have to say no. I’ve tried painting with a hangover and 1 hours sleep and it’s not so great. But, it has to be said there’s a really strong scene amongst London artists, so many shows and bits popping up on the streets, everyone’s just encouraging each other so really I think the social side of it all just helps things escalate nicely.
Your show features a range of hand crafted letters which are created using a mixture of hand cut and laser cut layers; as well as a collection of other unique pieces. Your understanding of typography and letter form must have mostly been learnt from all the skills you had to hone painting freehand back in the day. What else have you taken from those days knowledge wise that helps with what you do now?
This is something I thought about for ages.. Graffiti writers are pretty much thinking the same thing – how to adapt a set of letters again and again so they look good and stylised. So understanding type and linking it back to graff when sketching a piece is really helpful. For example imagine knowing loads about the structure of the letter ‘K’, then being able to have that in your mind and adapt it in whatever spikey bubble graff shape you like…. talking about it I want to go and paint spikey bubble graff shapes now.
You must be excited for the show? Has it been difficult getting it all together?
No it’s been loads of fun. All my friends have helped me out massively. I think that’s so important, I never used to be very forthcoming with the favours, it’s something I’ve learnt and really started to understand over the last few years and doing the show has just proved how smoothly things can run when you’ve got really cool people around you willing to help out.
Whats next for Stika?
I want to make a bigger divide in the scale of my work. Really really big walls, and then more intricate graphic work – something you can hang. None of those inbetween ‘medium’ sized paintings, they’re just weird. I do want to produce work for another show, just as I was finishing the work for Stik A Rock I felt that I’d found a few new discoveries and new ways of using the layers. This is becoming more important to me, how to work using mutiple layers for things like outlines and colour separation.
Check out more from Stika here: