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Post-War & Contemporary Art / STIK (B. 1979) Children of Fire 2011

Lot 15
(B. 1979)
Children of Fire
30 June 2022, 14:00 BST
London, New Bond Street

Sold for £246,000 inc. premium

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STIK (B. 1979)

Children of Fire

spray paint on steel garage door

211.3 by 211.2 cm.
83 3/16 by 83 1/8 in.

This work was executed in 2011.


Private Collection, UK
Lamberty Art Gallery, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2013

Jack Fogg Ed., STIK, London 2015, p. 114, 117, illustrated in colour

Insightful and unwavering, Children of Fire is a masterful meditation on our political moment by the renowned street artist STIK, capturing a sense of community and the significance of togetherness in the face of political and social strife. Created in response to the infamous London Riots which took place across the capital in August 2011, Children of Fire documents the civil unrest, triggered in the wake of the death of 29-year-old British man Mark Duggan, who was fatally shot by police in north London. It is a work that distils an unnerving sense of despair and yet exudes an unshakeable hope. It is as invigorating as it is simple and reticent. In the nascent history of contemporary Street Art, few works embody the spirit of the street artist as a documenter; a phantom beyond reciprocity, creating artworks in the public sphere that stand to call attention to the architecture, the arbitrators, and headlines of our day. Children of Fire is such a work. A 'street' piece – such examples are rarely granted permission to be sold publicly – it is testament to its time and the importance of the movement over the last two decades.

Lasting for five days, the London Riots in 2011 sparked outrage and shook London, with widespread violence, looting, arson and ultimately five fatalities. A chain reaction of unrest took hold of the nation as the violence spread across the country, raising fists and fire in protest against perceived injustice. Images of burning vehicles and damaged buildings are reminiscent of an apocalyptic scene from a movie rather than the streets of the country's capital. STIK experienced the riots first hand in his home borough of Hackney in East London. Taking to the streets, he was surely one of the only artists to have documented this historic event in the moment. Preparatory studies were drawn amid the riots, and the present mural was painted in the following days on the garage door of Pogo Café, a vegan café and anarchist information centre. Two years later, Pogo Café sold Children of Fire to fund proceeds for related social causes.

In the present work, the artist sets the scene against a vibrant canary yellow backdrop. A bright flame rises from the bottom of the composition surrounding three children in a golden, fiery halo. With proportions that are distinctly childlike, the figures are depicted in STIK's iconic, rudimentary, and enigmatic style. An array of emotions are subtly implied. Bewildered, and imbued with a vulnerable innocence, the children glance at their surroundings in apparent dismay. There is a whisper of sadness emanating from the hunched figures, yet there is, nonetheless, a defiance and ambition that shines through. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, those who have burnt the city to the ground are countenanced by those who would build it from its rubble. It illustrates a city and generation in flux. Many of the perpetrators of the London Riots were adolescents and young adults. The legacy of the events of August 2011 has undoubtedly been one of horror, of the brutality that gripped a country and the criminal opportunism that led to the snowballing of an initial spark. Yet the riots left the country with a deeper sense of obligation and community, and in Children of Fire this feels asserted in the most striking of images.

STIK's dynamic six-line two dot figures have become superbly iconic, with their friendly figures appearing across buildings and walls across the globe. Like other acclaimed street artists such as Banksy and his emblematic Girl With Balloon or OSMGEMEOS' memorable cartoon-like characters, STIK's figures are much loved landmarks and members of the community in their own right. Despite their seemingly simplistic form, each figure possesses its own distinguishable character as the artist assembles them with idiosyncratic personalities. A tilt of the head, a slight curve in the back, a raised arm, or the positioning of their remarkably expressive eyes can communicate as much emotion as a fully painted portrait. It is testament to STIK's ability as an artist and his sensitivity to body language and sentiment.

Executed in 2011, this impressive work by STIK is arguably the most significant piece to come to market. It is an artwork that establishes some wonderful dichotomies: undoubtedly one of the rarest and most monumental paintings by the artist, it is humbly executed on a commonplace garage door. Making it rarer still, additional elements including the backdrop with the burning flame are scarcely seen, the artist generally favouring a single or two-figure image set against a monochrome surround. The inclusion of a rare third character is a composition STIK only employed in a short period of his output. Furthermore, this particular garage door became a repeat canvas for STIK at the Pogo Café, where he would revisit and paint three separate works over three years. The first mural was to appear in 2008, Radical, a painting showing a defiant vegan holding an asparagus raised high and proudly above the figure's head. The second mural titled Woman featuring a lone figure on the garage door, and the third and final work Children of Fire were both executed sequentially in 2011. Originally found in the artist's neighbourhood in East London, STIK's connection to this object as a surface and message-board for his paintings makes it a piece that is utterly unique amongst comparable works to be offered. Signalling the importance of community, brotherhood, and political action, Children of Fire is unquestionably one of the great works by STIK and represents an opportunity to acquire a painting that is laden with history and lore by one of the definitive street artists of the last two decades.

Saleroom notices

Please note that original STIK street artworks are only permitted for initial sale when 100% of the proceeds are allocated to a registered charity and authorised by the artist. Children of Fire was originally sold to benefit charitable causes in 2013 and therefore is subsequently open for resale, as permitted and authenticated by STIK.

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