In 2005, I collaborated with renowned graffiti artist Temper to produce a limited-edition 60-page book exploring his career so far.
‘Ten years, crunched into an easily-digestible visual thing. For some people it’s just funky little characters. But it’s ten years of my life; a bubblegum version of the things that went on during that decade.’
Inspired by the Sex Pistols and Rock Steady Crew artwork, Temper developed a distinctive painting style first seen in ‘On a Creep Tip’. Despite a lukewarm reception at its first public showing in Birmingham, the piece’s value snowballed after it was pictured beside him in a Sunday supplement.
‘I was petrified that someone would rip off that style of drawing,’ he confesses. ‘Obviously that painting had been in thousands of Sunday Times all over the country.’ So Decade was born; partly to stamp ownership on the Temper technique, and partly to pay whistle-stop homage to his formative years.
From breaking on lino in the early hours to spraying outlines with Goldie, each canvas scratches the surface of one of countless episodes from 1982 to 1991. ‘Mic Check… 1, 2’ recalls a time when the Wild Bunch, later Massive Attack, were rapping and beatboxing in the Dungeons in Wolverhampton. When the UK scene was still defining itself, shortly after hip-hop spread across the pond, the canvas proudly brands the MC in red, white and blue.
Much more than just a series of snapshot experiences, Decade charts the artist’s development. So immediately after the shady furtiveness of ‘Creepin’, ‘On Time’ marks a turning point: ‘I was into youthful things,’ he smiles. ‘Then my girlfriend came along and showed me a different way of living.’
The collection is an edgy, colourful tribute to the colourful decade from which the Temper phenomenon was born. ‘Out of those ten years I could tell you a thousand stories, not just ten pictures. But there’s no way that I’d change any element of my life, good or bad.’