“Yeah, we’ve been painting every single day, or every night, but that’s what it’s about. You know, I enjoy painting, I like doing this shit. And I’m lucky enough to travel the world, earn money and do what I wanna do… And I’ve got a painting in the fucking White House. What?! That doesn’t happen; you can’t make this stuff up.”
For the past few weeks San Francisco has been playing host to one of London’s signature contemporary artists Ben Flynn, better known as the street artist Eine. Eine is known for his distinct aesthetic that explores typography and the alphabet, which he paints one letter at a time on the closed up shops and business shutters of the world’s cities. While in town he’s been working on an extremely ambitious body of work including several gigantic murals, a 26 letter series of his roller shutter paintings and a full gallery show for White Walls.
Like many street artists, Eine started out as a graffiti writer in East London. In interviews he talks about how intensely passionate he was, tagging and bombing, anything and everything in sight. After several years and several arrests he came to the point that he had to stop and find a new outlet. He was tired of the self imposed politics and rules that had taken over the graff scene, and he decided that going to prison “wasn’t a good career move”. Around that time street art was beginning to develop and Eine saw it as an opportunity to continue to paint in open spaces without permission. Banksy had rats, Shepard Fairey had propaganda posters, and for Eine transitioning from graffiti to a minimalist, single letter approach was an easy jump. “The letter form, and the shape, how to make that word look fucking dope and sicker than any other word that had ever been written. That was the challenge”. So with that in mind, he reduced his aesthetic to its most basic element, to focus each work on a single letter. He finds inspiration from obscure and antiquated font sets, which he redesigns to create his own original letter forms which he uses in both his street and gallery art. He has several popular sets including “Shutter”, “Neon”, “Circus” and specially made for this trip a font called “San Francisco”.
I wasn’t exaggerating earlier when I said his trip to San Francisco was crazy ambitious. Thanks to the help of Wall Space SF and a seemingly endless paint supply provided by Montana Colors, just by my informal count he has completed over 30 separate street art works in the past month, including a colossal 4 story wall on Hayes and Octavia. While many of his public pieces are his signature single letter, shutter paintings, he’s also created several vividly colored, word arrangement pieces using adjectives like Faster, Harder, Brighter (A little Daft Punk anyone?). These word arrangements were then echoed on a smaller scale in his highly acclaimed solo show titled “Greatest” at White Walls.
I like Eine’s artwork for a couple reasons. I like that his work forces me to examine and question my definitions when it comes to graffiti and street art. What really distinguishes the two forms? Is it simply font? How can a word written one way be generally considered friendly and approachable, while that same word written wildstyle is viewed as hostile? Often times graffiti scenes are closed off, like a clique. It’s about connecting with other writers and crews, not about engaging the general public or starting a dialog outside that niche. Eine views street art on the other hand as a way to make a connection with the general public, the community’s reaction is a major motivational factor in his artwork. When speaking about his shutter pieces in interviews he often mentions that he likes to keep people guessing. What are the letters all about? Is it spelling out something, is it advertising, is it graffiti? What the hell? That open ended dialog is what it’s all about, that’s the factor that differentiates street art and graffiti… Well for me anyways… this week… until I have another revelation. What do you think? What do you think is the difference between graffiti and street art? Is there one? I’d love to hear from you, I’ve posted the question HERE on my facebook page. Let’s start our own little dialog.
Definitely checkout the show “Greatest” at White Walls Gallery located at 835 Larkin St, San Francisco. Check out the gallery’s website for hours: http://www.whitewallssf.com/. White Walls’ Blog also has a map of all of Eine’s street art pieces.
For more information about the Eine, check out his website (Care bears and all): http://www.einesigns.co.uk
by Maggie Pike for Warholian.com
(In addition to writing for Warholian, Maggie Pike also runs the website Gone Tomorrow SF which covers the world of San Francisco Street Art. Check it out here: http://GoneTomorrowSF.com )