I could not help but notice the irony when I found myself on a bus heading out of my neighbourhood (the unofficial headquarters of street art) to go and view Stik’s steet art in Dulwich, which we all know is the suburban stronghold of South London.
Stiks interpretation of Guardian Angel Marcantonio Francheschini 1716
How did Stik’s work end up in Dulwich? The answer is genius in its simplicity. Ingrid Beazley, the Project Coordinator at Dulwich Picture Gallery saw some of Stik’s work. They met and planted the idea for a collaboration between Stik and the Gallery. This idea of a collaboration narrowed down to Stik selecting seven pieces from the permanent collection at Dulwich Picture Gallery and reinterpreting the old masters as street art.
In my view, pursuing this project to fruition cannot have been an easy task. It must have taken some convincing to persuade the ‘establishment’ to get on board with this project. Stik probably found himself having to work in a different way; within constraints, deadlines and rules (and with a more muted palette than that which is usual for him). What impressed me most is the way in which Stik and Ingrid made the project and collaboration seem much easier than it probably was. They were both very knowledgeable and it was apparent that they learnt from each other during the course of this project. They had a relaxed and close professional relationship and they deferred to each other’s area of expertise.
Stik and Ingrid Beazley
Interestingly, Stik’s work allowed me to make sense of the complicated classic pieces of art in the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Stik distills the essence of complicated human emotions, whilst managing to stick to his dogma of using no more than six lines and two dots per image. Consequently, he slices away the layers incumbent in the complicated works of the old masters, leaving a piece of art that communicates emotion and feeling without reference to age, class, gender or race. This makes his work attractive to an audience who would otherwise not take the time to learn and understand street art.
Similarly, the collaboration makes the work of the old masters less intimidating and more accessible to people who would otherwise steer clear of the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Personally, I would not dare to ask a question about the old masters without undertaking serious ‘GSCE-style’ swotting beforehand!
Stik’s interpretation of Adam and Eve (the Fall of Man) Pieter Coecke Van Aelst, 1520-1530
The only time on the walk that I had a conflicted opinion about this project is when we viewed Stik’s work in someone’s home. I have no doubt that the selection process was democratic, this is not what concerned me. My main issue was this: although this work was publicly visible, there appeared to be a ‘public-art’ versus ‘private-space’ conflict. The work was clearly visible from the road but I am not certain that I would be confident enough to walk up someone’s drive and get up close, which would limit my appreciation of the work. Theoretically, this is an easy argument to advance. In reality, if Stik asked to paint the walls of my flat I would volunteer EVERY available surface!
There was a touching moment when the group went to view the wall near the bowling green in Dulwich Park. Whilst we were observing this piece, it was apparent that Stik had successfully immersed himself into the community (The geriatics on the bowling green were waving at him enthusiastically!)
We were informed that this piece was a collaboration between Stik and Class 3S, from Dulwich Hamlet school. The idea of this collaboration passed between the children, reached their parents, moved on to their teacher who contacted the Ingrid. The natural way in which Stik worked with the children was evident when the children in the park quickly gathered around him. One happy child (and one nervous mother!) quickly got his hands on the spray can at Stik’s invitation and had a go at it.
It was hard to pick a favourite of the work Stik had done in Dulwich, but if I had to, this would be it. I was pleased to hear that Stik has now been commissioned by the Dulwich Picture Gallery to undertake three education projects in the summer.
Stik’s intepretation of Three Boys , Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1660
I have said little about the man himself. He is a talented and charming genius. Stik’s difficult start is well known in artsy circles. Focusing on his work for now, his art is much sought after and he has had a number of sell out shows recently. Stik was approachable and easy to talk to and everyone on the walk enjoyed his company.
It is known that Stik protects his identity fiercely. He kept his sunglasses on throughout the art walk. There was a moment, when we were in Ingrid’s garden, when Stik relaxed and took off his sunglasses for almost three minutes. I reached for my camera. I paused. ‘Take the shot, Take the shot!‘ I said to myself. ‘This is your moment! Take the shot you bloody idiot!’, I shouted at myself. I had a moment of internal panic. In the end, I did not take the shot. It seemed undignified to do so. I hope to meet the man soon and talk to him some more about his life, his work and his committment to pursuing social objectives.
Put simply, Stik’s Art Walk must continue beyond the Dulwich Arts Festival. This project, and the overall concept is too superior for it to be limited to the two events that took place during the festival.
Perhaps this could take the form of a monthly/bi-monthly walk to include a trip to the Picture Gallery (and a nice cool drink in the cafe!). If it is not possible to continue the Stik Art Walks, then the Dulwich Picture Gallery ought to consider developing a simple smartphone application/podcast to enable people to follow the route, see the art and have the benefit of Stik’s and Ingrid’s expertise. At the very least, the work should have QR codes that would enable people walking by to pick this up on their smart phones and learn more about the work. Good idea, no?
I felt privilleged to have been part of this event and I was culturally enriched as a result of this. Stik’s art has galvanised this community and the residents of Dulwich should be very proud for being bold and open to this idea.
Coolness Rating: 9/10
- Do not forget your camera. Instagram is great, but for this you need a hardcore camera with lots of buttons to really do the art justice
- Try and do the ‘walk’ early so that you can have enough time to visit the Dulwich Picture House Gallery before it closes (and have a cup of tea!)
- Unless it is the hottest day of the year, dress warm, wear a hat and carry something to drink! Leave the heels at home.