I meet the graffiti artist known as Eine (Ben Flynn) on a quiet sunny pavement a few doors down from the Kemistry art gallery where some of his work is being shown. I’m not good with interviews but unlike my two previous attempts for this site, I’ve done some research and even printed off questions. If you’ve ever wandered about Shoreditch, Old Street or Broadway Market after the shops have shut you’re probably familiar with Eine’s work: single letters spray-painted in bold colours on the shutters of various shops.
If you’re like me you probably wondered briefly about them, and then moved on and forgot all about it. I did this for a couple of years until I finally decided to take a photo to remind myself when I was next online; I actually thought I’d been seeing them for a long time but the mind can play tricks. I think the first I saw was the H on the front of Hoxton’s coffee shop on Old Street and at the time I had the idea it was part of a word that must have been spelled out along the street but this was the last shop with the shutter intact. But as I walked around the area I realised the letters appeared also on Hackney Road and Bethnal Green Road and most appeared to be the initial letter of the name of the shop.
My internet searching revealed a few similar enquiries and attempts to photograph all the letters, most notably comedian, and general legend, [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/dgbalancesrocks/sets/1816327/]Dave Gorman[/url]. Apparently the letters were created by a guerrilla graffiti artist who going by the name Eine and who is famous for his interest in letters. Unfortunately neither list of the letters went so far as to mention all the shops where they appeared but looking through the shots it was possible to track the majority of them down. Google Maps has a personal mapping facility so I have used it to create an annotated map of where I know the letters to be. As I find more I’ll add them and any pictures I can. You can find the map here:
[url=http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=101834655427280418288.00043a5421519e02ac033&z=15&om=1]Google Maps Eine Letters Listing[/url]
(Note: The letters are listed down the left hand side. Google maps don’t always translate street numbering correctly but unfortunately I don’t have post codes for all the addresses to use instead. Each one will either have a thumbnail of the letters or link to Art of State or Dave Gorman’s listing of the letters as pictures.)
Dave Gorman stopped once he acquired an entire alphabet and I decided to look about Shoreditch more carefully to see if I could find all the ones he had, since I didn’t remember seeing quite so many painted shop shutters. I found eighteen shop fronts in all, but I could only photograph thirteen of them, and noticed that I had letters neither Dave Gorman nor the [url=http://www.artofthestate.co.uk/Graffiti/eine_graffiti.htm]Art of the State[/url] site galleries had in their list. I could also see a number of the letters had been repainted.
There are also three more recent unrelated Eine pieces: a large ‘SCARY’ outside of Cargo, running under the bridge; ‘VANDALISM’ painted where the bridge for the East London Line extension will go over Holywell Lane; and ‘MASH THE TATE’, painted on the building next to the Kemistry Gallery.
I tracked down Ben (‘Eine’) from his website [url=http://www.einesigns.co.uk]Einesigns[/url] where he makes mention of having to repaint some of his shop fronts on account of vandalism and emails for further information on the letters resulted in this interview:
[b]Q: How did you come up with the name Eine?[/b]
E: There was a little panel on the inside of the tube train that I wanted to write my name on and at the time I was doing something that was more of a shape like a throw up thing than a tag. So I started doing ‘one’, and ‘uno’, and ‘eine’ – different versions of the number one – and eine fitted into this space better than anything else.
If I was to choose a name now I wouldn’t choose a German number because if you Google ‘Eine’ it’s quite hard to find me but it’s very easy to find 500 German websites. There’s loads up there [about me] but it’s impossible to find because I picked the stupid name Eine. Nowadays your ‘creative team’ will consider this aspect when choosing your name.
[b]Q: I noticed that number of the letters at the top end of Brick Lane look different to how they did when they were photographed a while ago. Were these the ones you mentioned having to repaint in your comments on your website?[/b]
E: That one [pointing to the Redfort Furniture T] got tagged over already had a little ‘c’ on it which I liked because it was like ‘Top Cat’ then someone came along and tagged a bunch so I repainted them.
[b]Q: The ‘H’ and the ‘B’ were all in that style so they were part of that set?[/b]
E: Basically the ones I did last year all had curved edges and the new ones have square edges. The M is very slightly different.
[b]Q: I thought I’d seen them around a lot longer than two years and I assumed they must have been about for ages.[/b]
E: It’s funny that. Someone said to me “I remember seeing them on Hackney Road when I was a kid” but I’m pretty sure I started doing them two years ago or this might be the third summer.
[b]Q: How did the shops feel about them? Were they happy?[/b]
E: Yeah they were. Originally I was going to paint the shutter of an abandoned shop on Kingsland road with Cept (another graffiti artist) and he wrote ‘CEPT’ onto his shutter and I just wasn’t into squeezing four letters on one shutter so I decided I was going to write E on one shutter and E on the next one and then I’d go back at a later date and do an I and an N.
But when I actually looked at the photos of it I thought it looked quite good and probably raised more questions because I hadn’t tagged it either, so I thought if I was actually just to write all the letters of the alphabet on shop shutters but not put my name on it people would think, “What’s going on here?” and assume it meant something and try to follow it. But it doesn’t, it’s just the letters of the alphabet.
[b]Q: We noticed that on some shops the letter is the first letter of the shop’s name…[/b]
E: The first six I did I didn’t have permission for but once I’d done about six and had photographs of them, then I could approach the shop owners and say, “I’m an artist, this is what I’m doing, can I do yours?” Invariably they say yes and invariably they say, “My shop’s called Ruby Handbags, can you paint an R and H’?” Towards the end I was desperate and I think the last letter was an ‘O’.
[b]Q: Really? I’d have expected it was a Z or an X.[/b]
E: It was because when a shop said I could paint anything I wanted thought, “Right, you’re having the Q because no one’s going to have that” or “You’re having the W” and so eliminated the awkward letters. I painted one shutter and the owner of the shop came out and asked me to paint his. It was called Coco Shoes so he wanted me to paint a ‘C’ but I’d already done three Cs so I just said that was fine and then when he’d gone home I painted an O and I’ve never been back.
[b]Q: And he didn’t do anything about it?[/b]
E: Well he doesn’t know who I am but he hasn’t painted over it so he can’t be that upset about it. But the thing is, a lot of these shutters were covered in tags anyway. I generally don’t approach people with a brand new clean shutter because they’re more likely to say no.
[b]Q: There’s a big blue thing on Hackney road with an ‘Eine’ and a ‘Cept’ on it, so he’s a friend of yours? I thought maybe ‘EINECEPT’ was one made up word you used.[/b]
E: Yeah. There’s another ‘CEPT’ next to the E on Kingsland Road and there’s a ‘CEPT’ next to an I on Commercial Street. But we’ve both been too busy to do much this year.
[b]Q: You know there’s a B on Hackney Road on Super Azabayjan? I thought it must be fake.[/b]
E: No, I painted it. When I finished the lot I think I’d painted 36 letters in the same style and I thought it would be nice to try a new font. When the guy asked me to do it I thought it could be the test shutter. I painted it four times and got it to the state it looks now and it still looks crap. That letter: it’s all about the shadow and getting the 3D to work so really I should have painted a letter like an E with straight lines which would make it show up better.
[b]Q: Do you know how many have been destroyed? Because Ruby Handbags is under cover at the moment behind a big wooden hoarding.[/b]
E: There are a couple who painted them over straight away because they didn’t like the colours I used but there are 79 in total all over the world: there’s some in Paris, some in Brussels, some in Stockholm and some in Norway. In Paris I used a sort of Circus font because I thought ‘Gay Paris’.
I just painted a T this morning on Hackney Road, next to Hackney City Farm there’s a curry house called Agra and there’s an ‘A’ there for Agra. I only do them for interviews now [laughs] – it was a Japanese DVD magazine.
[b]Q: Do you know if Ruby Handbags have kept the letters from their shutters?[/b]
E: Dunno. Generally after I’ve done the letters I never go back to the shops, just in case they say something like, “That’s fucking rubbish”, because I do them quite quickly so I don’t do them that neat. I can do it neat but because I’m doing it for the photographs I do it quickly, but you’d be quite right turning up at your shop the next morning and looking at it and going, “It’s actually fucking shit! I hate this”.
[b]Q: But they kept it. I guess it’s actually sort of self-perpetuating?[/b]
E: Yeah. Down Broadway Market every time I painted one someone would come out and ask me to paint theirs. I’ve nearly painted every shutter down there. Most of [the letters] are down there: there must be about 10. There’s a ‘J’ I repainted because someone painted ‘I love Eine’ over the top of it. That’s a nice way, fucking ruining my painting…So I repainted it in the square-edged font.
[b]Q: Are you doing another piece like the one in the gallery with the square edged letters?[/b] [There’s a piece on display in Kemistry that is a single canvas with the letters arranged on it like a grid.]
E: No. Actually that shutter letters one is only 25 letters. There’s no W because it’s too big. Also the M’s different and that was because I couldn’t remember if it was ‘thin first’ or ‘fat first’ [for the first vertical line].
There’s also a new thing I’m doing for the Rich Mix place on Bethnal Green Road. They have these thirteen metal things that kind of hide the disabled ramp and they wanted letters on them. They’re an odd shape, tall and narrow, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to find a font that’s tall and narrow but it doesn’t look right so I think I’m going to paint some wordsearchs on there. I’ve just come back from Norway and I did this big wordsearch wall in Norway for Nu-Art and there’s a photograph of that on my website. There’s a video of me painting half of it and then the second half with all the other letters falling into place.
[b]Q: Are the ‘Scary’, ‘Mash the Tate’ and ‘Vandalism’ quite new ones?[/b]
E: Vandalism’s probably a couple of months old, Scary a week after that probably, and Mash the Tate when the exhibition opened [also a few months ago].
[b]Q: They didn’t mind you painted ‘Mash the Tate’ over their front?[/b]
E: They didn’t ask what I was going to paint. I asked if they minded that I wanted to paint over their windows and how high up the wall I meant to go and they were fine with it. I just said I’m an artist and I’ve got an exhibition next door and I’d like to paint something on your wall, and I guess they just heard ‘artist’. “Oops, sorry, I meant to say graffiti artist.”
[b]Q: Do you charge for them?[/b]
E: I was painting one on Shoreditch High St. and the bloke from Hoxton sandwich shop asked if I’d paint his if he gave me some money, but mostly not.
[b]Q: Not even the Rich Mix place?[/b]
E: They actually don’t have any money. They did have lots of money and then we won the Olympics and their funding was cut so the building’s half-finished and there’s loads of extra space that they’re letting people use in return for painting it or fixing the lights, so I’ll probably end up doing it for free. I do graffiti art for money and I normally have spare paint materials after so I use those on the other stuff like the shutters.
[b]Q: Are able to live of this or do you have a boring job as well?[/b]
E: Actually I have an interesting job: I’m a screen printer, I print all the posters, and I sell my art and I paint all the shutters for nothing. Yeah, it’s not a bad little life.
Web Links (including pictures):
http://www.einesigns.co.uk – Eine’s website
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dgbalancesrocks/sets/1816327/ – Dave Gorman’s photo set
http://www.artofthestate.co.uk/Graffiti/eine_graffiti.htm – Art of the State’s photos aren’t as hi-resolution as Dave Gorman’s but they’re daylight shots
http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=101834655427280418288.00043a5421519e02ac033&z=15&om=1 – the Google map I’ve set up has picture links for each letter or a direct picture I’ve taken