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TNC Archive 2018

Ben Eine
An Unconventional Canvas

World-renowned street artist Ben Eine is set to reveal a 17,500 square metre painting in London this Thursday in collaboration with Zippo- his largest and most challenging project to date.


Hi Ben, thanks for talking to TNC, how's everything been going?


Good! We’ve been busy creating the mural but very happy to see it finished!


What does it mean for you to be unveiling your latest mural in London this week?


It’s been full of ups and downs, towards the beginning it was really touch and go. I’m pretty proud of this project with Zippo. I’ve never created anything so challenging and on such a huge scale. It’s been a mega leap of faith.


How did the collaboration between you and Zippo come about?


I was intrigued to find out that Zippo has created over 300,000 designs over the years; I love that a simple lighter has become this unconventional canvas for art. Being a street artist I’ve seen my work come and go over the years with pieces getting painted over and simply eroding.  By working with Zippo I have an unlikely place that my art can live forever.

How important for Street Artists are commissions like this?

I’m not one of these people to turn down a challenge, so when Zippo got in touch and asked me to take on such an unconventional canvas, I couldn’t say no. I’ve never painted something on the ground before, so it was very different to how I usually work. I think as designers, creatives, we have a responsibility to do things which excite people, try to push boundaries- that’s something I feel we’ve really achieved with the artwork.

Did you have any apprehensions about taking on such a huge project?


From day one, I was filled with anxiety and worry, purely because I have never done anything this big and it was on the ground. When I paint something on the wall, I can sketch something up, get off the scissor lift, step back and have a look at it, work out where it’s wrong but because this was on the ground there was no way of seeing it, unless it was the drone shot at the end of the day. It’s so massive that logistically for me it was a nightmare. There was a team of us involved and we managed to figure it out and when it was finished it was just so perfect, I was looking at it thinking, we’ve done this too well! The final piece looks like it could have been photo shopped, so yeah at the beginning my concerns were that it would look rubbish, but at the end I thought it looked absolutely awesome!

Can you tell me a little bit about the mural, what was your inspiration behind it?


I like the word ‘create’, I think it’s what people need to do. You know, you don’t want to just continually churn out the same stuff. As designers and creative people, you want to face challenges and overcome them, so that we continue to create interesting work.  

What was the hardest aspect of bringing this all to life?

Sketching it up was the hardest thing, because you can’t see what you’re doing. I’ve never used it before but I turned on that health app on my phone and I literally did 14km of crawling round on my hands and knees spraying the outline in a day, and I am not an exercise person. 

How much has the street art community changed since you started out?


At the beginning it was just like a few idiots from around the world, kind of trying to do something and there weren’t a lot of galleries or print companies. Fast forward 15 years, it is now a global phenomenon- an industry we can all make money out of. At the beginning it wasn’t accepted and now it’s totally accepted, it’s become part of the fabric of a creative society. 

Do you remember when and where your first piece of Street Art was created? 


I started off doing graffiti before I began doing street art and it was a slow process going from one to the other. The oldest piece of street art that I have still in existence is the big ‘SCARY’ painting outside Cargo in Shoreditch. It’s been there for around 12 years now. My little 3 and a half year old daughter has actually tagged her name on it!

Is it hard to not get attached to the work that you create? 

I’m attached to ‘Scary’. I did a painting three years ago that said ‘extortionists’ and it got tagged over, but between Christmas and New Year I totally repainted it. So, I am kind of attached to all my paintings, but they do also get painted over. I don’t own the building, but I have permission to paint over it, so the building owner can do what he wants and you know, stuff just goes over time. Because of social media and the digital world, everything I paint lives on through technology. Like I paint a wall in Japan, take a photograph and I’m never going to see that wall again once I get on the airplane, but the photograph will be there forever. 

"It’s potentially one of the biggest paintings in the world and with graffiti and street art, you’re always trying to do something bigger, better or more than the person that came before you."

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Do you have any advice for any up and coming street artist?

Just practice, draw and don’t expect to earn any money or to be famous. Do it for the right reasons and maybe those two things will happen, but they shouldn’t be your reason for doing it.


And finally, what do you want people to take away from you work?


It’s potentially one of the biggest paintings in the world and with graffiti and street art, you’re always trying to do something bigger, better or more than the person that came before you. Hopefully, this painting will raise the bar and someone will come along and do something better. 

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