STIK’s depictions of closely intertwined individuals are among his most celebrated, and Standing Embrace is a significant early example and the first large-scale canvas that the artist produced. STIK was commissioned to paint a portrait of R. Fraser, an eminent figure within the British music industry, and his wife, and the artist depicted them in a suggestive embrace. By employing a seemingly simplified visual idiom, STIK disguises the humours and saucy undertones of this intimate double-portrait. Enthusiastic about the painting, Fraser became an early champion, patron and close friend of the artist. The erotic undertones and warm-orange ground closely tie the present work to STIK’s contemporaneous Kama Sutra series, examples of which were exhibited at Austin Gallery, in Hackney, in one of the artist’s first solo exhibitions. In 2020, the artist’s first public sculpture, a monumental bronze pair, will be installed permanently in London’s Hoxton Square, just steps from where his career began.
STIK started drawing as a means of communication and never really stopped: ‘I felt invisible,’ he remembered, ‘and it was my way of showing I’m here’ (STIK quoted in D. Lynskey, ‘Street artist Stik: ‘I felt invisible and it was my way of showing I’m here’, The Guardian, 11 August 2015). It wasn’t until the early 2000s, however, that he started graffitiing his figures on the streets of London; STIK only began to paint on canvas in 2008 and works of this period are extremely rare. Perhaps most well-known for his public mural A Couple Hold Hands in the Street, which was painted near Brick Lane, London, in 2010, STIK understands his work within the context of a changing urban environment. These are defiant figures characters, who refuse to be ignored.