In 2005, I collaborated with renowned graffiti artist Temper to produce a limited-edition 60-page book exploring his career so far.
Breaking on lino in the dead of night. Spraying the final touches to an outline, beads of sweat prickling as a siren draws nearer. MCs battling it out in a sweaty underground venue to a baying crowd. All of these things are alien to me: they’re not my background; they’re not my culture, and having known Temper for two years I’m still scratching the surface of what fuels his compulsive creativity.
But I think he’s enjoyed such phenomenal success partly because his journey is a universal one. He’s changing the face of the culture that made him, not simply by exposing high-quality graffiti to the public – and by playing with the context in which we view it – but also because he justifies his work as an expression of his soul. In his words, ‘I don’t spray paint, I spray me.’
When I first met Arron back in 2003, he told me that inspiration hits him in the chest like a punch. It’s that primal need to pour the contents of his head onto canvas that makes him an artist – in that respect, the fact that he uses a spray can is circumstantial. But it’s also deeply relevant, because when Temper became the ‘face of graffiti’ after putting his mark on Sprite he gave a glimpse of what drives some illegal writers too. Sometimes it’s mindless defacement of public property; that’s why it’s illegal. Sometimes it’s about expressing yourself in the rawest possible form, making your mark on the world.
Temper remains fiercely true to his roots, openly disregards artistic pretension and superficial society, and keeps to a small circle of trusted friends. Working deep into the night in a sleep-deprived haze, aerosols rattling around in his cavernous studio, it must be a lonely process at times – and it’s obvious from the sparkle in his eye when discussing his fans that their personal feedback means the world to him. But what strikes me most is the creativity boiling over the surface; the number of collections stored up in his mind and ready to rush out when the dam breaks. Somehow, when Temper tells you he can paint every day until he dies and still have more to come, you’re compelled to believe him.
Hip-hop culture is all about stepping up your game, and the future can only be a global one – but hoisting himself up from nothing has seared the need for a rock-solid grounding in every aspect of Arron’s life. He’s got a lot of canvases to paint, and prefers to build a tower to the stars than shoot a rocket that soon comes plummeting down. Right now, he’s still digging the foundations: to steal the artist’s own metaphor, this book marks a full-stop at the end of the first paragraph in his artistic career. The way he talks about the next five years is enough to make anyone tingle with anticipation. Now is the calm before the storm; the slow-motion leap before the fight begins. It’s safe to say that Temper will be around for many years to come.