First published on 4 Dec 2008. Updated on 7 Jan 2009.
The man called Pure Evil first understood his capacity for evil as a 10-year-old kid growing up in the tiny Welsh village of Cwnllynfell. Ambling through the countryside with a borrowed shotgun, he spotted a couple of rabbits and aimlessly let off both barrels. "I thought they had run away and I walked up and there was a rabbit lying dead," he recalls. "It was that thing of 'this isn't a game, it's real.'"
The rabbit with fangs – a malign innocent – is a recurring emblem in Pure Evil's art: from quick, spray-painted tags to stencils of dominatrices in latex bunny oufits. His version of Picasso's 'Guernica' - the great 20th century depiction of evil - gives each figure incisors and rabbit ears. Pandas and penguins are Pure Evil's other animal friends; his 'Psycho Penguins' are armed to the teeth with swords and submachine guns, while in 'Panda Killah', a guy in a panda suit brandishes a massive axe. "Using something cute you can get quite a strong message across," Pure Evil says. "I'm talking about the way animals are going to have to find a way of defending themselves from humans. The ice is being melted and the oil companies are waiting to move in."
Pure Evil - real name Charley - is the subject of a solo show at Surry Hills' Urban Uprising gallery. One of the Banksy generation of UK urban artists, he found his vocation following a decade in the rave and skateboarding cultures of San Francisco. "I was doing all the psychedelics my brain could handle and got into DJing," he confesses. "And I started to miss London. It's a dirty place, but it's the dirt that helps things to grow."
On his return he saw an outdoor Bansky show and was inspired to make stencils and freehand works. He opened a gallery space in Shoreditch and started producing his prints commercially. "The successful artists are the ones that have made the transition from the streets to canvases," he says. "But the basic building block is being able to stand in front of a wall and do something beautiful. It's a political act - saying, fuck you, I'm going to write this here."
Other works range from a recreation of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper sleeve with a cast of dictators and serial killers, to a depiction of the earth as the planet-destroying Death Star from Return of the Jedi. "If I was in a spaceship travelling the galaxy I'd give the earth a pretty wide berth right now.
"Having Pure Evil as a nickname is a bit of a joke," he explains, "but it's a licence to have fun with dark imagery. It reflects the darkness that's in the world right now. You can't just ignore it and do a nice picture of a unicorn. Unless it's a unicorn with a rocket launcher on its head."
A Pure Evil Christmasruns until 30 Dec at Urban Uprising.