London-based artist, Josh Stika, aka Stika, has just opened his latest show in London’s Hoxton Hotel. Neon typography is in abundance, heavily influenced by lyrics from ’90s dance tunes. We got a few words from him about his career to date, the haters, ‘selling out’ and who he’d love to work with in the future.
VNA: So can you tell us a bit more about your new show, where, when, etc?
Stika: The exhibition is at The Hoxton Hotel, Shoreditch. It launches on the 19th of November is up for 3 months in the build up to the bespoke ‘Stika’ hotel room opening in late January.
As a solo show I aimed to make it as diverse as possible to ensure that anyone visiting doesn’t feel like they’re looking at the same piece/style 30 times over. I dabbled with the idea of a ‘group solo’ show – then I just realised this made it look like I had multiple-personality disorder so I let that one go…
VNA: Where does the inspiration for your latests set of lettering come from, the style, the content?
S: With the 2 or 3 styles of type I work with at any one time, I try and balance between what’s on trend and what I feel pushing to be a new trend. For example the sign writer style stuff is something I’m enjoying playing with, it gives me something very similar to graffiti bubble letters, and yet works really well for the design of the slogans and phases.
VNA: Your work references a lot of the sub-cultures of London life, what is it you love about the scenes that you represent in your art?
This is a really tricky one. I’m not from London originally, I moved here in my late teens, so I do come under fire sometimes for the ‘London Thing’ print and related phrases – but then I guess that’s completely ridiculous in itself, we’re all justifiably allowed to love Garage as much as the next raver! Also, it’s one of the most wonderful things within the art world when artists make relevant work to their surroundings and culture, like I’m not going to start painting Miami sunset landscapes (although I might pinch the colour schemes) because I’m not ‘living it’.
I also feel that with the growing amount of ‘artists’ (have you heard, everybody does graff now), the beautiful and traditional link between art and music is getting filtered down massively. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by Dj’s/musicians at the forefront of what’s happening NOW, and I get asked to do covers regularly, however it’s now become super rare for people to do really special artwork for 12 inches for example. I guess this might also add to the reasoning behind me highlighting so many of our favorite lyrics from the 90’s.
VNA: As an artist, you use a lot of spraypaint in your larger works, how did you hone that skillset?
S: I started painting graffiti when I was 13. I stopped painting graffiti at some point that I’m not quite sure of. So there’s been a few years there of painting and painting and painting, with a few of those being spent with some of the UK’s finest (*remaining nameless) based on the south coast, which definitely excelorated me into a more skilled stage of painting.
Don’t get me wrong I still love painting massive walls, the bigger the better of course! However I would feel like a fraud calling it graffiti – but it’s definitely not street art, because street art is paste-ups and Poska pen drawing on wooden hoardings right? But I paint, and it’s definitely some sort of art, and it’s definitely on the street… Anyone else confused here? I think this is another super frustrating ‘happening’ of our time, the blurred lines between what’s going on in the underground art culture.
VNA: You’ve had some pretty big statements on your walls, like the ‘Don’t Hate On Kate’ piece in Shoreditch around the time of the Royal Wedding, what is the message you’d most like to be remembered for?
S: That was a cool wall! However, I don’t think I’ve found the thing that ‘I would like to be remembered for’ yet, also, that sounds like I might be popping my clogs soon – I’m 28 man!
VNA: Working with brands like Adidas and Boxfresh, you must have come under fire from some of your graffiti contemporaries, do you have any issues with ‘selling out’ your work?
S: Yeah! I love this issue!
The best one was really recent, I got dissed so hard on instagram by this sweet little lad who does Chromes in his local recreation ground. Terms like ‘Sell out’, ‘Art School fag’ and ‘Hipster’ were all used. It was hard not to reply all guns blazing (I have a short fuse), but then I went on his instagram to do a background check, and lo and behold he’s wearing Adidas kicks, a Boxfresh jacket and posing with German Montana – ALL brands that I’ve either designed for or been heavily involved with over the past few years. So if I am selling out – it’s directly back to you lot, thanks!
But on a serious note, it is a tricky subject, especially in London where you have such a divide between illegal writers/commercial artists. Times are changing though, and we all love to earn a buck, so why not do it with some of the top leaders in fashion/music/branding? It actually feels really cool to have some of these guys come to you for projects, surely that’s better than them looking at us all from a distance then using one of their in-house designers to graphically knock up a ripped off version!
VNA: How do you reconcile the sale of your skills while staying true to your roots?
S: I think that just comes down to a genuine ‘work’ ethic. I like to think I work hard, and the more effort you put into something, the more you should be rewarded – that’s kind of how life works right…
VNA: Do you have a wishlist of people and brands you’d like to work with, or are you more interested in building your own brand now?
S: Yeah – for sure. I’m gradually starting to meet them. Travel is really important with this, you do really need to hop around the world as much as possible to make those connections, FB messaging people doesn’t really do it.
People that I’d like to collaborate or exhibit with are Triston Eaton, Remi Rough, DFace and A Dandy Punk. You may think this is just an all star list of the top buys in the game at the moment, but I just see it as something nice to look forward to.
VNA: Have you found it hard to become established as an artist in your own right, coming from the street art/graffiti world?
S: Yes. I’m not sure I’m an established artist yet. Maybe for a minute I was established in graffiti. Maybe design I have an OK rep too. But actual art, that’s a while away…
VNA: Is it harder for you to be taken seriously, or do you think it’s given you a valid platform to engage with galleries and investors?
S: I feel like I’m in an in-between stage – so yes, I feel confident I get taken seriously as an Art Director/Designer because this is something I’m so used to (I love a good project), however the gallery and artwork dealing world is new to me so something I’m still trying to get to grips with. Again I think working hard and having a good attitude gets you further than just relying on ‘good paintings’.
VNA: You’ve worked internationally with Monorex and for festivals like Outlook, do you think it’s vital to keep up an international presence as an artist now?
S: It is definitely really important to travel round the world and meet as many people as possible. I have been fortunate in landing jobs internationally, but I also know that most of these have come from me putting myself in these countries/positions in the first place. it is literally a case of ‘getting out there’, and I still feel like I don’t do enough of it.
VNA: What’s next for you to keep growing and developing?
S: Well, as always with making a new body of work, by the end of it you start to realise there’s a few new techniques you’ve come up with that you’re keen to develop further. So, after a few days off I think I’m going to try and start work toward a new show with these new ideas in mind.
I also want to get back into the commercial world and get stuck into some proper projects again.
I may also do some graffiti. Or street art. Or sign writing. Ha.