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As a young adult, Eine worked for Lloyds of London and continued his train tagging during his lunch hour. He stopped this practice when two of his fellow graffiti artists were arrested and sent to prison. He turned instead to devoting his full attention to decorating the streets. The fugitive is no more; he does not practice his art without first obtaining permission from the owner of the property that will display his work.
Life as a Street Artist
When Eine started out, he felt the existing graffiti artists were creating designs that were entirely too similar and therefore lacked interest. Eine wanted to do something different. He was always interested in letters and how they could change shape when combined into words, so this is the direction he took.
Now, he paints his letter designs all around the world. In a recent artistic trip to South Africa, he painted wine towers, and previously he traveled to a gallery in San Francisco for a solo exhibition comprised of both gallery art and street art.
He was most known for his letters as street art until he was rocketed to fame by British Prime Minister David Cameron when he gave Barack Obama a screenprint of Eine’s work in celebration of the president’s second inauguration. It happens that David Cameron’s wife, Samantha, is a big fan of the artist. It was not easy for Eine to come up with a suitable work for a president, as most of his work, while painted in bright, cheerful colors, has a negative connotation. This would not be appropriate as a presidential gift presentation. The one the artist chose for the Prime Minister to give Mr. Obama was a screenprint of a work he had done years before that spelled out “TWENTYFIRSTCENTURYCITY” in black, laid out in seven rows.
Ben Eine is best known around the East End of London where he worked for many years alongside his friend and fellow street artist known as Banksy. Eine would paint one side of a street and Banksy would paint the other.
Before the famous presidential art gift, Eine came to the attention of the British media when he talked the shopkeepers along Middlesex Street in Spitalfields, England into letting him paint the entire alphabet in his signature vibrant, joyful colors on their closed security shutters. This was the first time he was able to paint the entire alphabet, having previously painted only words such as “Exciting,” “Express” or “Vandalism” on walls and buildings. It should be noted that Middlesex Street is now known as Alphabet Street.
Google has published a map of Eine’s London works, but he also has some major examples of his typographical works on display in Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and Paris as well as other metropolitan and non-metropolitan cities and towns. Thanks to Ben Eine and his fellow street artists, the art world has found a whole new genre to celebrate. Street art has become a popular and well-respected part of the artistic community.
The Artist Today
Eine has now taken up screenprinting as a way to pay his mortgage, but continues his street art, which is his true love. Eine is known among connoisseurs of the screenprinting medium as an expert screenprinter.
Currently, Ben Eine lives in Hastings, England with his wife and three children. Of course, the town of Hastings has much of his street art on display for the locals to enjoy every day.
The Work of Ben Eine
“Greatest” exhibition at White Walls gallery in San Francisco, 2011
This exhibit of Ben Eine’s screenprints and street art illustrates very well how the artist transforms letters into an art form. The exhibit clearly shows the viewer how the artist visually expresses himself in the modern English alphabet using a variety of typefaces, colors and word arrangements.
The White Walls exhibit called for the artist to paint each letter of the alphabet on several walls around the city, while the gallery itself exhibited ten canvases done in mixed media of spray paint, acrylic and glitter on canvas. These works can be viewed at www.whitewallssf.com
Art Below’s Peace Project, London, England, 2012
Here there is a poster spelling the word “LOVE” in two tiers. The upper tier features the letters “L” and “O” with Eine’s typically expressive shapes and colors, with the letters “V” and “E” on the lower tier formed in an equally expressive fashion. The work is reminiscent of the psychedelic posters so prevalent during the peace movements of the 1960s.
Proceeds from the Peace Project exhibit will go to a community playground project in Northern Iraq. View this work and others at www.einesigns.co.uk.
Other Street Art
A commercial work exists on Hackney Road in London featuring Eine’s famous shutter work. There are two letters, “F” and “S”, one letter on each shutter, painted on the Fiorella shoe store. The letters are of a simple block style in the artist’s trademark unusual colorations. The large “F” is outlined in red with green-on-green stripes on the interior of the letter. The “S” of the same size on the adjacent shutter is also outlined in red but with yellow and white stripes on the interior. The work proves that even shop signage can be raised to the level of an authentic work of art.
Ben Eine is one of those rare artists whose art is appreciated during his lifetime. He is still young enough to go on producing the street art he loves, while continuing to create the screenprints that pay his mortgage. Aficionados of the artist’s work can look forward to enjoying the projects that Eine is sure to create for years to come.