“We rarely speak of what matters, because words are clumsy and people tend to make things more complicated than they are. But, pour us a drink and we will tell you some lies. What it comes down to is that there is not enough soul in the world. There is too much bullshit. Art is not about sales, it is not about numbers, and not about fame. Art is not just some pretty pictures in a pretty gallery. Art is about heart, it is about soul. Art should be honest, simple, and beautiful. And living in a world that is slowly being consumed by the past and the future, by opinions and money, we are in desperate need of people that cut through the bullshit, people that strip away the nonsense and show the world what truly matters.“ - Eleven
Eleven is a Dutch contemporary artistic duo consisting of brothers Liam and Noah. In early 2012, the siblings – then enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences and the University of Technology respectively – opted to drop out of their studies, quit their jobs and take on the challenge of becoming among the most renowned artists of their time. It was a decision, in their words, to “give in to the fire within.” “We both realised that if you are going to do anything worthwhile in your life, you are going to have to burn some bridges and break the rules.” As they began to experiment with different media and techniques in their search for “the perfect painting”, they took on the role of awakening others through their work.
An especially notorious example of this came in 2015, when they declared a crumpled can of Coke to be art and offered it for sale for what would have been a record-breaking price of $322 million, or £203.9 million. As the brothers explained it at the time: “Yes, it’s just a can of Coke, and we are selling it for millions. It’s time for you to wake up.” Can of Coke epitomised the brothers’ devotion to helping others to see the light, in much the same way as they had in deciding to become artists in the first place.
As late as 2017, the young visionaries continued with stencil graffiti bearing such thought-provoking titles as “Some People Need a High-Five. In The Face. With a Chair” and “Woodstock (Middle Finger)”, playing on much-riffed-upon motifs from pop icons like Mickey Mouse to comics like Batman.
Change was beckoning, though, and the artists made their big leap from pop-art figuration into fully-fledged abstraction, right down to their name. “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 this presence, a timeless quality, a sense of mystery to it.”
Want to learn more about Eleven?
And then they were Eleven! The new name for the Tinker Brothers, and what that all means
Tough Bros Of Abstraction - In Conversation with Artists Eleven