SOHO RIOT’s show by Ben Eine
Legendary graffiti artist Ben Eine chats about fonts, getting arrested, his new solo soho show and seeing his work in lights
Ben Eine is well hung. Whilst his early influence on the graffiti scene is without doubt prolific, today the street artist more than stands his ground in the contemporary art world as well. His work appears in some of the most high profile and prestigious places across the globe. His boldly recognizable letters not only spilling down entire blocks/ alphabetizing shop front shutters, and brightly splashing across London’s gritty east end brick; but soaring through the the sky in first class on Virgin Atlantic, blazing across Louis Vuitton scarves, fetching 6 figure sum’s to a long queue of fans before his shows even open?! oh yeah…. and did I mention the fucking WHITE HOUSE!
Now for the first time Eine’s headed to Lights of Soho, electrifying his popular 2D “neon” font… back in the neighbourhood where neon first began! I had the chance to sneak some time with Ben ahead of this week’s opening of ‘Soho Riot’ to chat about his most precarious work, and what it feels like getting lit.
You’ve been one of the most prolific and active writers from the prime of the graffiti and street art movement. Do you remember your first tag?
BEN ZINE: Not my first tag but strangely enough just three days ago an old friend emailed me a photograph of the 1st piece I ever did. It was terrible!
Not only were you a legendary graffiti ‘writer’ but your work pulling prints at Pictures on Walls for the likes of Jamie Hewlett, Banksy and David Shrigley is more than worth a mention. I’ve heard you used some pretty experimental techniques back then like using acid on paper and such. Can you talk about those a bit?
I wasn’t a trained screen printer and I definitely feel that if I’d have gone through the more conventional learning methods, I’d have been taught what you can’t do as well as what you can do. Because I didn’t quite know the rules, we experimented a lot more with what you couldn’t do. It kind of worked out to our advantage with the artists we were working with at the time.
You’re one of the best in the game when it comes to colour. Was that always something that came natural to you? Do you have a favourite combination?
Thank you, the colour combinations totally come naturally to me, it’s much more of a feeling than something that I actually think about a great deal. I don’t like to overthink the process, it really depends where and what I’m painting on.
If you had free reign, is there a dream spot left where would like to put your work? Street? Gallery?
Next to the Mona Lisa.
Nowadays you generally paint in broad daylight with police casually passing by, but that wasn’t always the case. You were arrested nearly 20 times in the past!! What was the most daring or precarious place you put up work?
A train at Edgware Road train station on the side of the circle line on Christmas Day. I’ve done plenty of risky things but that was one of the ones that were more dangerous than others. But then it’s about weighing up the risks against the reward. Nowadays, if I’m to break the law, I’ll do it in the day time. I’m much better at talking to the police than I am running away from them.
Where does the typography and lettering meet for you with the art? Is there one that’s leading or influencing over the other when your creating a piece?
The most impressive pieces for me are the paintings which I have executed on concrete primed canvas. I’ve never ever seen anyone do that on such a medium. Art to me is about pushing boundaries.
Not everyone can say they have their own font, but you a slick little selection including Elton, Circus, Shutter, Tenderloin, and Vandalism. If you had to produce a piece using only Windows ‘97 fonts which one would you choose?
Helvitca Bold or Arial Black. Although I’m not sure the latter is on Windows? It’s on my Mac though.
Do you have other artist’s who your inspired by, or that have been influential on your work?
Kaws, Delta, Elk, Paul Insect, Ochre, Mike Bast, Vhils, the list could go on but these instantly spring to mind.
Your show ‘Soho Riot’ opens this week at Lights of Soho, which marks your first time working with neon. What can we expect? What was the experience like working with this new medium?
Frankie, from Moniker Projects, mentioned the possibility to me last year and I was all over it. I like doing new things and I’ve never worked with this medium before. Seeing my 2D neon font get the neon treatment and transformed into 3D works of art is what excites me.
Lastly you’ve collaborated with Louis Vuitton, Virgin Atlantic, Amnesty International, the Big Issue among many. Is there a dream artist or brand that you’d like to create work with?
Elon Musk’s rocket manufacturing company SpaceX who have landed of the contract to build the next space ship for NASA or Virgin Galactic. I’d like to place some art where no art’s ever been before.
BEN EINE : ‘SOHO RIOTS’
OPENS AT LIGHTs OF SOHO
20 APRIL – 21 MAY
Words by Tracy Kawalik and Ben Eine
Photos by Tracy Kawalik, Ben Eine and Brand Revolution