The artists formerly known as the Tinker Brothers
You may be more than a little familiar with the Tinker Brothers. Here at Addicted Art Gallery, we’ve been proudly associated with these siblings – Liam and Noah – for the last one-and-a-half years. You might have even read our blog post from late last year, daring to ask the question... could these guys be on their way to becoming the most influential artists of their time?
If they do manage to accomplish that lofty goal, it’ll have much to do with an utter stellar start. Yet, as recently as 2011, it was all so different. The currently Eindhoven-based brothers were then studying at the University of Applied Sciences and the University of Technology. However, they detected a higher calling to make art as a duo, and dropped out of their respective studies.
That may have been a bold call in some ways, but in others, it was the only one they could have made. In the words of the brothers themselves: “We really discovered this fire within – this passion for becoming among the greatest artists of our generation.”
A name change, though, might be their boldest move of all
It’s hard to argue with the fast success that the men who came to be known as the Tinker Brothers have experienced in the art world.
They’ve rustled up all manner of eye-catching, thoroughly 21st-century pop-art creations derived from such instantly recognisable motifs as Woodstock and Mickey Mouse, presented their work at art fairs around the world and been declared “the notorious gems of the art world”. They are, in short, thoroughly deserving up-and-comers.
‘Happy Ending’ by the Tinker Brothers, spraypaint and 24-carat gold leaf on canvas, 2017
You might have thought, then, that the brothers would be eager to keep hold of the moniker that has so greatly helped to bring them to the verge of true international fame. But nope – they’ve decided to be all contrary, by switching to a new identity – ‘Eleven’.
If you’re a little dumbfounded, no worries – we’ll explain all.
Is such a seemingly perverse change in identity really that wise?
Glance back through the history of celebrated artists changing their names, and, well... there isn’t really a history of celebrated artists changing their names. Or, certainly not once they’ve got some real career momentum going. So, you might have thought the Tinker Brothers are on tricky territory by embracing such a seemingly anonymous new identity as ‘Eleven’.
Adopting a new moniker can, though, also signal a significant step in artistic evolution for any creative person. This was shown especially famously by the late Prince Rogers Nelson, whose change in name to an unpronounceable ‘love symbol’ in 1993 left the media critics reeling.
The American musician declared in a statement at the time that the meaning of the symbol – which resembled a combination of the gender symbols for man and woman – “has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 to a new free-quency.”
The newly-christened Eleven are, mercifully, rather more expansive about their reasoning, although they signal their clear agreement with the notion of “thinking in new ways” with their identity change: “It was the logical next step for us – the name we were meant to have from the beginning.”
The siblings further explain: “The name ‘Tinker Brothers’ was invented because of the symbolism towards light – ‘tinker’ means light.” So if there’s anything that Eleven signifies, it’s a definite shift from what the Tinker Brothers represented. It’s not simply a change for change’s sake.
A new moniker that reflects a step-change in artistic evolution
It would be easy to presume, if you were only aware of their notorious 2014 work Can of Coke – a literal crumpled can of Coke that they put on sale for what would have been a selling price far in excess of the world record – that the Tinker Brothers are, or were, simply provocateurs in an art world full of shameless provocation.
But in the case of the Tinker Brothers, any such provocation was never without a meaningful message. Somewhat foreshadowing Banksy’s recent auction stunt that was interpreted by some as a comment on the ridiculousness of art-world economics, the siblings explained their own act thus: “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”, 2014
That thread of deeper messaging has continued through to such more recent Tinker Brothers works as white on white stencilled ‘invisible paintings’ on canvas, sporting thought-provoking titles like Death Is a Joke and The Night Watch.
‘Death Is A Joke’ by the Tinker Brothers, stencil and varnish on canvas, 2018
However, the siblings are in agreement that even these pieces represent the past, rather than the future of their art. Instead, for their new creative lives as Eleven, their focus is squarely on comparatively abstract works that epitomise a certain more introverted and subtle message than the sometimes in-your-face vibe practised by the Tinker Brothers.
As for how the name ‘Eleven’ exactly tallies with that? Unlike Tinker Brothers, which was associated with more tangible and instantly identifiable symbolism, “Eleven doesn’t symbolise anything in particular – it’s abstract as well.” That sounds like pretty good reasoning to us.
So, what will be the first exciting moves for Eleven?
If the name Eleven is supposed to represent a notable switch from what the Tinker Brothers embodied, it’s difficult to think of a more convincing and emphatic way of demonstrating that, than literally changing one’s whole environment. This is precisely what Eleven intend to do, with a move from Eindhoven to the bright lights of Los Angeles high on the agenda.
But isn’t such a famously brash, celebrity-emblazoned corner of the world a rather curious next destination for a group of artists with Eleven’s relatively arcane artistic philosophy? Aren’t they supposed to be moving past the seemingly shallow sheen of pop art, in the direction of something a little... well, more suited to New York, that ‘melting pot’ where apparently anything and everything can, and does go?
This is, intriguingly, not a narrative that the artists are on board with when it is put to them. Instead, they see a potentially world-shaping opportunity in adopting such supposedly unlikely surroundings. “Maybe moving to LA is nothing, and maybe it’s everything – but we don’t know it yet. Maybe it’s the perfect place to rebel – to encourage people to go deeper, and swim in the sea.
“We think we can be anywhere – we just have to see how it is.”
As for those seeking to emulate their success? Well, there can only be one approach...
Eleven, of course, still have plenty of history remaining to make. They’re yet to reach the peak of their ambitions to become “among the greatest artists of our generation”, let alone coming anywhere near ‘art-world elder statesmen’ territory.
They have, though, accumulated enough wisdom between them thus far to be able to impart a few sage words. When asked what advice they would give to those contemplating becoming artists, but hesitating, their answer is unequivocal.
“We sacrificed a lot to be able to go ‘all in’. We’re still living at our parent’s. The all-in answer is the complete answer to that question. If you have something you’re passionate about, just go all in.
“There’s no compromise. Dive in, make a jump, make mistakes, fall really hard and fall again.”
Everyone here at Addicted Art Gallery can’t wait to see the many fascinating ways in which Eleven fall, and fall again – in only the most positive ways, of course!
‘Colours Of The Wind’ by Eleven, acrylic on canvas, 2018
‘I Want Love, Or Death’ by Eleven, acrylic on canvas, 2018
'Here's To Basquiat' by Eleven, acrylic on canvas, 2018
‘II. Air’ by Eleven, acrylic on canvas, 2018
“We can talk about media, techniques and whatnot for days, but we would be missing the point completely. Art isn’t about that nonsense. Art is about heart, it is about soul. We make art because we have this fire within, a voice that needs to be heard—and we just have to give into it. It’s like being a musician; there is this music within, and it just has to come out. We make art because when we leave this world, we want our hearts to be shattered across a thousand different canvases. Like a supernova, we want to leave the world with a firework display of golden hues, love and divine beauty. So, if you want to know what we are about, well, just skip all the nonsense and cut straight to the painfully simple truth: we are here to make fucking music. Art happens to be our instrument.” ~ Eleven