In 2005, I collaborated with renowned graffiti artist Temper to produce a limited-edition 60-page book exploring his career so far.
Signature Sprite Can
‘I won everybody’s vote for eight weeks on the trot. Undisputed. It was obvious it had to be my work, which was very nice to know,’ grins Temper. After a phenomenal live performance at the Sprite Urban Games 2000, he was one of four artists put forward to design the sponsor’s new packaging. His work instantly hit a nerve: they wanted him, and they wanted his brand splashed all over their drinks cans. 100 million of them.
‘The success rate was unbelievable: Coca Cola were shocked,’ he recalls. ‘It was originally meant to be a UK promotion, but people got in touch from Germany and Belgium so it obviously went European. I was already well-known on street level, but from the general public’s perception this took me to a different level. I was on television, radio, magazines, and people were actually holding my tag in their hand. It raised my profile in such a massive way – untouchable, really.’
On one hand, the ‘all graffiti is vandalism’ case could only be weakened by such a high-profile commission. But by rocketing into the public consciousness Temper risked becoming a scapegoat for graf’s less popular forms. ‘Everyone was asking me, is graffiti art or crime? I had to take a lot of things on the chin.’ Luckily, he dealt with it pretty well.
‘I protected my culture, and I communicated it to the public without diluting it or overexposing it,’ he insists. ‘I was conscious throughout every interview that I never damaged illegal writers, and only talked positively about how it’s an individual thing and can inspire. A lot of people got new commissions because their local Council began to take it more seriously. I changed graffiti for the better in this country, and I know this is talked about as one of the stepping stones to what graffiti is now.’