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Tough Bros Of Abstraction - In Conversation with Artists Eleven

  • Portrait of Eleven
January 9, 2019
Deeply invested in modern and contemporary art, the Widewalls magazine aims at providing a unique experience for its readers in the form of in-depth and quality journalism.

The Dutch artist duo Eleven consists of siblings Liam and Noah who initially set off their artistic career under the name Tinker Brothers. Namely, in 2012 both of them dropped out of the University of Applied Sciences and the University of Technology respectively, quit their regular jobs and dedicated themselves to art.

In the following seven years, the brothers experimented largely with various media and techniques. While working as Tinker Brothers they embraced more figurative style and their work was soaked with various pop motifs until they came to the conclusion that abstraction is the perfect style for expressing their creative visions.

In an exclusive interview with Widewalls, Eleven reveal more about their, some might say, pretentious, yet interesting practice.

Eleven - The Dark Side Of The Moon
Eleven – The Dark Side Of The Moon, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 120 x 90 x 3.5 cm

Working As a Duo

Widewalls: For the beginning of this interview, could you explain the decision to rename your collaboration? I suppose it has to do a lot with stylistic persuasions since while working as The Tinker Brothers you embraced more figurative approach, which is not the case with Eleven.

Eleven: We have very little with rhinoceri, so Dali was out of the question, and Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso was already taken. The name Tinker symbolized ‘light’. When we started out as artists we made art with the purpose to awaken others. Pop art was a way for us to connect to the masses. We used popular icons and imagery because we knew they were accessible and relatable to other people. We were so focussed on communicating a message that making art became a means to an end.

When we made our first monochrome painting it was like we discovered alchemical gold. We experienced a calm we had never experienced before. There was a presence, a timeless quality, a sense of mystery to it. It was like a rebirth, an awakening. Eleven marks a new era.

Widewalls: How would you describe your mutual exchange and therefore your team process?

E: We both dropped out of college and decided, separately from each other, to give in to the fire within. We both realized that if you are going to do anything worthwhile in your life you are going to have to break the rules. That is, of course, if you want it to be worthwhile. If you are looking for comfort, go ahead, stroll along with the rest of the masses protected by your 9 to 5 bullshit, your newspapers and cooking shows. Stroll along, until the light in your eyes has faded away and the fire in your heart extinguished.

But if you are going for greatness, you are going to have to take some risks. You are going to have to burn bridges. You are going to get hurt, turn heads and get into trouble. But you are going to do it. Because the only way to to be real is to find out what is not. You have to keep digging, continue to shed all the layers of false beliefs and identity until there is nothing left but truth.

Until there is nothing left but the all-encompassing presence of nowness. That’s when you you know it. That’s when you have arrived.

Eleven - Heres To Basquiat
Eleven – Here’s To Basquiat, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 150 x 100 x 3.5 cm

Artistic Believes and Disbeliefs

Widewalls: At this point, which themes and topics occupy you the most?

E: We are done with the popcorn problems. Ever since we started making art we have been looking to create the perfect painting. A simple, profound and beautiful painting that transcends time. We spend years experimenting with different media and techniques to ultimately discover the one.

An art style we can dedicate our lives to. Monochrome represents oneness. How is that for a theme?

Widewalls: You come from the street and graffiti scene, which was often socially or politically driven, so I am interested: what is your perception of engaged art? Is that a necessity or just a matter of choice?

E: What a joke. We finished playing the game of monopoly a long time ago. What is the root of all political and social schemes and institutions? Doesn’t being socially and politically driven mean you are still caught up in the game? What is the point of reminding the world it is on fire?

Eleven - When The Heavens Burst
Eleven – When The Heavens Burst, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 120 x 90 x 3.5 cm

Future Plans

Widewalls: Do you follow current art trends or where do you see your work in a local, as well as global art context?

E: Fuck the bubble. Trends are deadlines. Yes, being among the greatest artists of all time and filling museums and galleries all over the world is on the agenda, but God, we wasted so many days. Let’s watch a movie and order pizza, shall we?

Widewalls: What are your future plans and for how long do you think you can work as a team?

E: Other than making art until we are centenarians, holding a glass of whiskey in one hand and a brush in the other, how can it be anything else than a mystery?

Eleven - I Want Love Or Death
Eleven – I Want Love, Or Death, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 95 x 80 x 2.5 cm

Featured image: Portrait of Eleven. All images are courtesy of the artists and Addicted Art Gallery.