Eoff Hand, artist better known as Mr. Bingo, sitting in front of me is a shocking print he made in 2020 in the sweltering heat of the pandemic, which read ‘F*** the NHS’ (without the stars).
“It wasn’t a clever piece of work, it wasn’t some kind of satirical statement.” He laughs, eyes twinkling mischievously under cropped curls “I was jealous of the NHS because they were getting so much attention. When everyone was clapping and there were rainbows in their window, I remember walking in the neighborhood I was walking around in and thinking, “This is so boring. Every house is “We love the NHS.” Imagine if someone put something like the f***ing NHS. That would be so weird, so confusing. I think there’s a lot of comedy in doing the opposite.”
The provocative print found fans in an unlikely audience: the NHS staff themselves. Why does he think so? Was it a way to put two fingers on an institution that was working them to the bone, rebelling against being in the trenches of Covid with weak government support? He explains: “It can be as simple as, even if you like the NHS and what they do and what they represent, for those people, the NHS can be their boss. Maybe they thought, I’m my boss. I don’t like my shift. I don’t get paid enough. So it’s f*** Tesco, or whatever they’re saying. Or maybe they just enjoyed the perverted stupidity of it. ” Sales of the print were donated to a pro-NHS charity.
Mr. Bingo has built its brand on silliness. The Kent-born, London-based artist is known for his vulgar sketches and prints that make fun of everything from COVID restrictions to health fads, capturing the national mood with delightfully teen school humor. To use a habit.
His revised 1,000 print run of a bottle of Camden Heels, with the label F***ing Hell I’m Bored of Covid, sold out in 24 minutes, reaching Glastonbury ticket sales-success levels. “That’s how … broke the internet. My website and Camden Heels’ website went down. It’s a success,” he laughs.
His light-flooded corner studio sits on a leafy corner next to Exmouth Market, where in early December 2021, Mr. Bingo hosted two weekends of Open Studio, allowing fans to glimpse his ordered universe. Artwork and captivating fan mail is neatly taped to a giant wall and pencils in pots are all sharpened to a similar length. I poke my nose around his desk, smiling at his to-do list, his signature cursive script, and a miniature work of art in underlined capitals.
Amid government restrictions, they sold open studio tickets online and welcomed groups of six at a time for 50 minutes, chatting, laughing and sipping beer bottles on their balcony. Omicron is now moving through the population, just as it was at the time. Will the new version work with more of Piscatacry?
“To be honest, I am bored with COVID so I really don’t want to make anything more of it. But if it keeps dragging on and there’s a new angle to it then I’m sure I can do something.” Looks like can’t remember, given that the lockdown has become such a muse – but who’s war- at the moment. Not feeling plagued?
“I sold a lot of art during the pandemic because people want a small trinket or memento to remind them of that historic occasion. This is the reason why people buy royal plates or olympics like. There are always loads and loads of merchandise that people buy that end up in charity shops. I’m doing a mod version of this. That’s what’s great about humor in crisis. My job wasn’t to find a vaccine cure, it wasn’t to console people: my job was to entertain. I got a lot of messages like, ‘Thank you so much for keeping us going’. It is as if you are providing a public service. In fact they are buying stuff and he is paying my wages.”
This is a humble statement. One of the people who bought his stuff is David Hockney. Prolific artist 40. ordered Tired of Wellness Bear Mats In November, giving Mr. Bingo a real fanboy moment. “He really is one of my favorite artists in the whole world, probably really my favorite artist. I can’t think of anyone I love more than him.” He shuffles into his Bubblegum Pink All Stars, saying: “It’s a really cute story of a little artist doing pretty silly things and then a huge prolific artist buys the smaller artist’s work. Art can be expensive.” David Hockney has sold millions and millions of pounds of art but it was great he was buying a silly £8.50 thing. The next day I bought another 10 pack, and two Don’t Forget to Have Fun Gravestones. They sent him Also asked to get the NHS print f***.”
As well as Hockney, celebrity fans include documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux, who receives one of his scratch-off advent calendars in the Post every year. He’s been releasing a new celebratory design for the past five years, featuring characters from real subjects: “About 400 people apply to join in. I’m interested in age, gender, race, sexuality and body type and I choose 25 on the basis of diversity as possible in terms of disability. I try to represent as many different people as possible.”
An artist for people, I wonder if there’s anything he won’t joke about? “When I did my Hate Male series [a project where paying punters are sent offensive postcards that proved so popular it spawned books and exhibitions] There were four things I went nowhere: disability, sexuality, race and religion. None of them are funny to attack.
“Religion is too risky. You can get killed. The only time I’ve ever made a joke about it is I’m afraid I don’t have God to take care of me, but I’m telling People who believe are jealous.”
Mr. Bingo is confident of his following, and despite everything, hopes to hold another Open Studio in 2022. With the way things are going, we’re going to need all the comic relief we can get.