Domestic abuse has ‘long-lasting impact’ says charity after West Hampstead mural artist apology
- Credit: Archant
A women’s charity has highlighted the impact of domestic abuse on victims following an apology by the artist behind West Hampstead’s divisive bridge mural.
Ben Eine, who pleaded guilty to assault by beating for punching his girlfriend in 2018, created the mural on the Thameslink bridge in May. He was commissioned by a social justice arts group which claims to promote gender equality.
When his conviction was publicised after the mural was complete, residents voiced their opposition and a group of West Hampstead women told this newspaper they were “uncomfortable” with Mr Eine’s work.
A women’s charity has now publicly challenged the message his art sends to survivors of domestic abuse.
Mr Eine, real name Benjamin Flynn, told the Ham&High: “I did something wrong, I am mortally sorry and I regret unbelievably what occurred. I believe it was out of character for me. I’ve since tried to make amends, and I believe that I deserve a second chance.”
The artist said he “totally understands” residents’ anger over the contradiction of his artwork, which is meant to advocate equality, but is painted by a man convicted of domestic violence.
Mr Eine said he believes the majority of West Hampstead residents want his mural to remain.
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“If you want to highlight everything negative about me then some of those people will change their opinion,” he said.
“But take it for what it is. It’s a painting that says something positive.
“That’s better than a black wall and it hopefully adds something to the community.”
Laura Dix, national community engagement manager for Women’s Aid, said: “Domestic abuse has a long-lasting impact which survivors can carry for the rest of their lives, and we hope that the collective that commissioned this work will listen to survivors’ concerns.
“It is important for society to send a message that domestic abuse is always unacceptable and for the voices of survivors to be listened to and believed.”
READ MORE: West Hampstead mural: Councillors come up with compromise and artwork will stay for now – but then be replaced by community artREAD MORE: West Hampstead mural compromise: Plan to rotate artwork pleases some, but concerns about about artist’s conviction remainAlketa Xhafa Mripa, who hired Mr Eine for the voluntary work, claimed she did not know of his conviction when she first approached him.
She said she believes in “rehabilitation not punishment”, and that the conflict which has erupted over the mural is “very, very sad”.
On July 6 the mural was defaced to read ‘rough arts we rise’– thought to be reference to Mr Eine’s conviction.
The artist returned on July 11 to restore the graffiti to ‘through arts we rise’.
Network Rail, which owns the bridge, said no permission was granted for the remedial works, and British Transport Police said it was investigating the defacement.
West Hampstead resident Jill Henry said Mr Eine’s return had seen “the red carpet rolled out for a domestic abuser” and she queried why Ms Mripa had asked Mr Eine to fix the graffiti when, this time around, she was aware of his conviction.
Ms Mripa said it “had to be” Mr Eine as it was his art originally, and that she “could be sued” by him if someone else completed the job.
Another point of contention for residents was the absence of public consultation before the mural was installed.
In June, a compromise was reached by local councillors Shiva Tiwari and Peter Taheri (Lab, West Hampstead).
It was agreed that, in the future, the mural would be replaced and become an open gallery with rotating pieces of work – all consulted on and approved by a committee.
Concerns were raised over whether the arts group responsible for the works, Through Arts We Rise – the same name emblazoned in graffiti on the bridge – had contravened Camden Council’s advertising regulations.
To avoid a breach, rather than removing the graffiti as first requested by the council, the group changed its name to Justice Through Arts.
Camden Council said it is content the name-change complies with its regulations and that the graffiti constitutes public art, not an advertisement. It has closed its investigation.
In a joint statement, Cllr Tiwari and Cllr Taheri said they look forward to the next community meeting on the art space.