In 2005, I collaborated with renowned graffiti artist Temper to produce a limited-edition 60-page book exploring his career so far.
For a dyslexic child struggling with words, comic books throw open a vibrant universe of storytelling where characters come to life before your eyes. ‘I wanted to pay homage to one of the greatest things in my life, which is comics. What better way to execute this than by making an image out of words? You’re flipping the script: the whole thing just made sense.’
The final piece in the jigsaw is the title: not only had most of Temper’s childhood comic strips now become film reels, but studying the multilayered texture of the canvas was not unlike looking into a box of that familiar movie snack.
‘I’ve never seen anybody paint like that; not with aerosol,’ he admits. ‘Each canvas is a reapplication of a similar stencil 18 to 20,000 times. That’s an awful lot of stencil work. But nobody ever looks at Popcorn in that way. It’s that good; it doesn’t look stencilled.’
Every cloud – however much it drenches you – glitters within, and this revolutionary style came about by chance. Asked to spray a canvas for exhibition sponsor Airwalk, Temper planned an abstract piece and began stencilling on their logo. But with his back garden serving as an impromptu studio, he became pressed for time as the light failed and the skies opened. He needed a quick solution.
‘The gutter and soffit at the back of my house just gave enough shelter for the canvas, but I was wringing wet,’ he recalls. ‘I just started reapplying the logo to create a face. And that was the application; it was like an accident on purpose. I wanted to do something good, but that saved me being there all night.’
The style evolved, and after the glowing reception for ‘Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing’ – a growling reference to his proud Wolverhampton roots, composed of thousands of Temper tags – it lent itself well to the Popcorn idea, already part of a lengthening list of proposed collections. It’s an ongoing project, and comics remain an important part of the artist’s life.
Batman is a particularly strong influence: ‘He has every bit of ammunition that he needs to combat anything that gets in his way,’ Temper tells me with a sparkle in his eye. ‘He lives in a batcave. That’s kind of like me: I lock myself up in a studio. I haven’t got my boats, I haven’t got my helicopters, but they come out in forms of style. Anything that I need to achieve, I’ve got the ammunition to do so. Temper’s the Batman to Arron Bird, if you like.’