Tagging for tagging's sake
By his own admission, Tapr is not the best graff artist around. Not to put too fine a point on it, but compared to other accomplished graff writers, he doesn’t possess the skill required to create those inspiring, knockout pieces.
Tapr just isn’t in that league.
However, he does bring to graffiti an equally admirable quality. Tapr is to graffiti art what a brawler is to the sweet science of boxing. Pound for pound, brawlers may lack the grace of swift-footed pugilists, but they make up for it with a swarm of rock solid punches.
What Tapr lacks artistically, he makes up for with the graffiti equivalent of a swift jab: the tag.
Taggers are a particular bone in the throat of anti-graffiti stalwarts. What’s the point of the tag, they ask, except to repeatedly mar the cityscape?
According to Tapr, that’s partially correct. From the beginning, it’s always been about seeing his name in as many dope spots as possible. He’ll tell you, unabashedly, “There’s not much more to it than that.”
It’s true. The object of tagging is tagging.
As a teenager venturing to Toronto from small-town Ontario in 1997, what initially caught Tapr’s eye were the numerous stylized signatures scrawled across everything from stop signs and bumpers to garage doors and handrails.
For Tapr, having grown up in a town unblemished by graffiti, arriving in hyper-tagged Toronto awakened the sleeping graphomaniac within.
“I started seeing tags everywhere and I got hooked.”
It’s not that he doesn’t execute larger, detailed pieces. Over the course of his life in graffiti he has produced several pieces around Toronto—some in the alleys off Queen Street, others in the College and Spadina neighbourhood.
Early on, Tapr came to a conclusion: in comparison to the work of other artists, he didn’t feel he possessed the same level of talent. “Toronto has a lot of graffiti writers that are true artists. With all the amazing talent, I could not even begin to call myself an artist.”
Instead, his focus became the tag. “I never really had a knack for the intricate pieces. For me it’s always been about basic letters and just getting a name up.”
Since starting out, Tapr has learned a few lessons. “Graffiti is a real risk-reward game, where the risk far outweighs the rewards. At least in the long term.” Still, nearly a decade and a half later, his desire to tag remains strong. He continues to travel with his trusty black marker.
Nowadays, he limits his graffiti to legal walls and festivals. Every so often, though, like a brawler possessed by the belief he has more fight in him, Tapr will steal away to a quiet train yard and, in the still of the day, put up a quick throwie.
And along the way, he’ll always find something to tag.
Photos courtesy of Tapr.
Torontoist is profiling the city’s graffiti artists, uncovering their best work and finding out what makes them tick. Are you a graff artist or do you know one who’s interested in being profiled? Email us.