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My interest in graffiti and street art emerges from the craze for giant commissions that mixed with another craze, that of conceptualism, seems to have pushed the passion of painting to the streets and to muralism. Somehow the world of art is going back full circle and painting goes back to the street. This is the first article on a series on a kind of art where artists do it no matter what, against all odds and many times having to starve and being beaten up by competitors and the police. 

From SHK to the Ivory Dukes 

Tizer is a legend in the London’s graffiti culture and is days from having his first solo show at the Pure Evil Gallery. He and his brother were part of a crew called SHK during the eary 90s getting to a point where that crew had 80 people working together in a community. Their collaboration stopped when his brother was put into the Zulu Nation, which was founded by Afrika Bambaataa to promote the positive sides of hip-hop culture. The reason for stopping the collaboration was the ‘beef’ which in the jargon of graffiti art refers to the physical fight for walls and running away from the police. 

From Ivory Dukes to the Idiots Crew 

The name of their crew was originally the Ivory Dukes in ironic response to the Ebony Dukes (formed during the 70s). In the late 90s they changed the names to Idiots Crew because most of the members of the crew were either dyslexic or they had relationship problems. This self-deprecation extended to their work which started becoming comedic because at the time all other crew names were rather aggressive and were doing aggressive pieces. In Tizer words a kid wants told them: ‘You’re making graffiti fun again. Everyone takes it so seriously and it’s supposed to be fun and you and your brother make the funniest fucking walls’. 

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His career as a graffitti artist started as a way of fitting into the London punk scene without any money. ‘We lived in South London and there were a lot of tags on buses that we were trying to read, we started recognising it and understanding it. Then we both got heavily into hip-hop and that was the way we could be a part of the culture, as we couldn’t afford decks or records. Graffiti was free, we weree either making our own markers and inks or stealing spray paint, so you could do it quite cheaply but still be quite important within the scene’ says Tizer. 

The ‘Beef’ 

According to Tizer, ‘when they started working they didn’t really tell anyone who they were for years because it was quite dangerous. It was a violent scene, more so in the 90s. London went through a really dark period where it was more like the scene in Paris and NY with a lot of kids getting mugged and beaten up. Around 2000, when people started doing street art, it was a really exciting time because there were graphic designers doing stickers or people doing wheatpastes or stencils and it kind of mellowed the whole scene out’. The early 2000s was the time when two famous crews Zomby and Diet starting teaching a lot of people how to paint and those people taught other people and that was the real explosion of British graffiti. Regarding having a career as a graffitti artist he says that ‘it is really hard. Whenever anybody says to me that they want to do graffiti as a living, I say, well…expect to be evicted from your house and lose your girlfriends’. 

Graffiti on Canvas 

In his Pure Evil show he continues the work started in the early 2000s when he was part of a group called ‘They Made Me Do It’ which was the first group grafitti exhibitions in the country since the 80s. Those were the shows that Banksy used to see in his formative years. 

Written by Rodrigo Canete. All Rights Reserved. 

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