I was always a fanboy says Eelus. Moving down from Wigan in 2000 he found himself at the heart of an emerging street art scene. It was a time when Banksy was active but not really in the news. When places like the Dragon Bar and the Foundry were at their height. Shoreditch was only beginning its journey of recognising its full potential.
We’re meeting at Eelus’s studio in Brighton. Recording the latest episode of Art Related Noise for Enter Gallery. The gallery in Brighton has long been a supporter of his work. A fellow northerner he’s been telling me about his move down south. First to London and then to Brighton. He hasn’t looked back since.
Podcast with Eelus
“There was nothing like it in the north at the time” he tells me. He was a new boy in the city. Working creatively and creating his own art, he threw himself into the scene whilst also just loving what was happening around. He was a fan. Taking pictures and recording events before taking the step himself into the inner circle.
Working with Banksy
Known early on for his Shat-At stencil. It showed a young girl pulling an At-At from the Star Wars movies on a lead. Soon becoming a popular image it was the one that would give him his big break. It was Banksy no less who he would work with first. His Pictures on Walls outfit with Ben Eine had seen the images around town and he liked them.
“Everyone sold out in super record time” says Eelus. A multiple print run of various colour blocks each with editions of 200. “It even broke Banksy’s record for the fastest selling print for the company at the time”. For a newcomer to the scene this was quite something. It was in 2006 and the fanboy had found himself on the inside. At the heart of the street art scene.
It was the work of Banksy in particular which had an impact on that early stage of his career. Going to the first Santa’s Ghetto exhibition on Charing Cross Road in 2004 seems to have been a tipping point. Well used to seeing work on the street. Here were the same pieces in a more contemporary setting. “All of a sudden it had been translated onto paper, framed and on a wall. I just thought that it was just the coolest thing. They just looked great”.
The experience led Eelus to begin to learn more about screenprinting. A process which he is now well known but which then he knew nothing about. In terms of the impact on himself the experience gave him a marker and something to aim for. “It was like, I need to be involved in this” he tells me.
I learn about his influences and they come from all around. A bookcase sits against the back wall of his studio. Filled with books about street art and graffiti. Old battered science fiction novels fill the shelf above his desk. Across the walls of his studio are homages to old horror films. They all have impact on his work. “I’m generally interested in most things. My brain really flits around a lot” he tells me. “I can be really really intensely interested in a bizarre topic and then it’ll just disappear and I’ll be onto the next thing.”
Street Art is of course one of the biggest things he’s known for. He has a unique graphic look born out of his history of stenciling. Sharp blacks and greys sometimes with vibrant strips of colour create a surreal and pop art feel. Recent outings in Walthamstow and Brighton have been hugely popular. Though these days it’s only on the odd occasion that he’s able to find the time to create the big set pieces.
What’s in a name?
Positivity seems to be an area which is important to him. He talks a lot about the impact of his work not only on himself but on those who buy it and those who see it. His street art particularly is something that brings him joy. He recognises that if he finds energy from creating a work then others might experience that too. “Painting murals for me is such a joyous thing to do. It’s such an amazing experience especially if you’re painting it with a good friend. All these memories are created on the week that you’re painting that wall.”
Eelus of course isn’t his real name, so I ask him about it. Wondering where it came from. “Everyone always thinks that Eelus” is Lee spelt backwards he tells me. It’s a fair supposition but that’s not the story. Tall and goth like as a younger man it was an ex-girlfriend who coined the name Eel Boy. Looking for a moniker to use as a burgeoning street and print artist, Eelus just evolved from that. It’s a name that’s stuck and it’s a name that’s known.