Pure Evil

Drawing of Audrey Hepburn with a long black tear coming from her eye

Pure Evil

Spring 2016

Born Charles Uzzell Edwards in South Wales, and tracing a lineage back to Sir Thomas More (the Lord Chancellor famously beheaded by King Henry VIII) Edwards' early influence was the work of his father, the Welsh painter John Uzzell Edwards. It’s as Pure Evil, however, that Edwards has emerged as one of the leading British artists of the thriving international street art scene, exhibiting worldwide and launching the Pure Evil Gallery in London.

On completing his studies focused on graphics and fashion in London in 1990, Pure Evil left Britain at the age of 22 and struck out for California. He worked as a clothing designer for the Anarchic Adjustment label designing T-Shirt graphics and became involved in the musical fabric of San Francisco as an electronic recording artist for Peter Namlook’s ambient electronic music label, FAX.

Street art, of course, proved to be Pure Evil’s most important artistic discovery during his 10 years in California. Inspired by the initial influence of Twist and Reminisce, with a dose of skate culture thrown in, Pure Evil began tagging freeways and storefronts. He felt the pull of London, however, and returned to his homeland on the cusp of the new millennium, where his signature fang-sporting bunnies began appearing on the streets. The artist later explained in a BBC Blast interview that the bad bunny showed up one day in his sketchbook. The image came from a hare that he had killed with a shotgun in his youth and it had returned to haunt him for his past sins. He associated the label “Pure Evil” with the symbol, and the artist adopted the new name.

Pure Evil has always considered the moniker a bit over the top, but it does justify his artistic excursions into the darker side of people and their social ills. The symbol proliferated, as rabbits often do, and so did Pure Evil. The artist began an association with people involved in Bansky’s “Santa’s Ghetto,” and started creating prints for Pictures on Walls. When the U.S. denied his application for re-entry his life took an unplanned turn. The artist set up shop in a small shed in the Black Mountains of Wales, eventually moving back to London to prepare for his first Pure Evil exhibition in 2006. The success of that and subsequent shows enabled him to open the Pure Evil Gallery in Shoreditch in London’s East End in late 2007. The Department Store Gallery opened 2 doors down in 2014.

Today, Pure Evil enjoys the success of a street artist as global brand. The artistic integrity remains just as much in evidence as his commercial good fortune. The reputation of The Pure Evil Gallery has grown remarkably, due to its support of independent artists. The Pure Evil music studio produces music for free downloading. He appeared on the BBC version of “The Apprentice” during its 2012 season, signed on to contribute artwork to Ruark Radio and Royal Doulton, all the while maintaining a monthly radio program, leading workshops, presenting lectures and continuing a prolific artistic output. 

He has participated in more than 50 shows in the UK and internationally, as far afield as China, Hong Kong, South Africa, Russia, The USA and Brazil. Aside from the “rabbit reject with the count Dracula overbite,” as he labels his calling card, Pure Evil is perhaps best known for his Warhol-esque portraiture, which expresses both biographical signature and western culture critique.  Pure Evil explains that a chance email from a Chinese “copy village” gave impetus to his “Nightmare Series.” The village offered, via email, a list of artists it could reproduce, including three Andy Warhol paintings. The idea of Warhol’s entire artistic output distilled down to three small thumbnails of Jackie Kennedy, Liz Taylor and an Electric Chair became the inspiration for these doomed and dripping celebrity portraits. Why are they crying? “Its an illustration of the heartbreak and sadness we have all experienced in relationships in the past,” he comments.

Quin Arts curator DK Johnston added, “Pure Evil is deferential to the screen-printing cornerstone laid by Andy Warhol, even as his art maintains a street art sensibility that is admired and collected globally.”  For his solo show at the Quin, Pure Evil created a series of screen-prints on paper and canvas, including hand finished prints.

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