London’s leading light-art gallery and members’ lounge, Lights of Soho, has teamed up with no other than legendary street artist Ben Eine and Moniker Projects for what is its first original show, SOHO RIOT.
Known best for his giant alphabet lettering adorning the walls and shop-shutters all of London and beyond, Eine sees his popular 2D font turned into three-dimensional neon-art objects for the very first time. The exhibition, which aims to encapsulate the spirit of Soho, one of the most diverse and exciting neighbourhoods of the city, amidst a time of large-scale urban upgrading within London, will shine bright onto Brewer Street until 21st May.
Hello Ben, let’s talk about your show at Lights of Soho; how did it come together?
Frankie Shea from Moniker Projects who I’ve worked with for years mentioned the idea of turning my works into neon sometime last year. I loved the idea of it. Anything that’s new or pushing boundaries for me personally is what interests me. We had a meeting with Hamish Jenkinson from Lights of Soho and everything felt right.
What was it like working with neons?
I wasn’t on hand to create the actual neon of course but supplied the artwork and was enthusiastic about seeing my 2D graphics transform into a 3D work of art.
And how does it feel to see your trademark 2D font turned into a 3D light-art object? Is neon a medium you would like to explore further?
This is the reason why I wanted to do the show, realising one of my two dimensional flagship fonts into a physical thing is what excites me. I’m more than happy how they have been are fabricated, the actual neons translate even better than I imagined. I’d be open to creating more neons down in the future for sure.
SOHO RIOT is about embodying the spirit, the essence, if you like, of Soho, which is threatened by rampant gentrification. Do you think artists can help combat gentrification or should they just go with the flow?
I think creativity is an incredible thing to utilise towards gentrification; if artists continue to be present then we have a way to keep neighbourhoods like Soho alive. Although sadly, often when artists congregate in a rundown area, it begins to push up the property prices. Look at Shoreditch, Hackney Wick and even Peckham, all areas that were once in disarray – the art scene that evolved is what has helped these districts flourish and have been instrumental in their gentrification. What are we to do?
You have been working with NGOs and charities, and even with some of the biggest names of the fashion industry. Recently you have teamed up with the Big Issue; what was the experience like for you?
I’ve been totally flat out with project after project. Just before SOHO RIOT I did a show and the cover of the Big Issue’s 200 millionth to help raise much needed funds for the homeless. Battling homelessness is something that’s really important to me, it really could happen to anyone, so being a part of their initiative was incredible, a privilege.
And finally, what’s next for you? What have you got in the pipeline?
I can’t say much, but 2016 should be an exciting year. I’m saying all of this as I’m up a cherry picker painting a three-storey building in Shoreditch that reads “The Last Days Of Shoreditch” – Painting big on the streets is without a shadow of a doubt the one thing that I wake up for. There are lots of options for me to choose in the near future but I’m really in no rush right now. I could do with a month or two off!
SOHO RIOT will be running until 21st May at Lights of Soho, 35 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0RX.
For more info head to www.lightsofsoho.com
Words by Jocopo Nuvolari
Photography by Konstantinos Zoidis