Polish vodka, a circus, windmills and vision from outer space... It's Pure Evil!
Just before the start of the festival, I met up with Pure Evil in the lounge of his very nice hotel and he kindly answered a few questions...
How did you start making stencils?
I started about ten years ago, I had a project where I was doing stencils for an MTV video. I just went out and spent the day doing stencils on location for this project. At the end of the day, I had all of these stencils left and I thought "that was fun" so I carried on doing that. The first stencil I did was just of a hand, it reminded me of the first cavemen paintings, when people just painted their hands.
Do you paint a lot in the streets?
yeah, all the time. I do more freehand in the streets and use stencils on canvas and on paper. Recently, I've been collecting antique paper from the 1920s, the 1790s... There's been a real fetishization of paper, there are people who like printing on heavyweight, beautifully made paper and I wanted to go a bit further back and look at really old paper and see how it was produced. I've also researched Japanese paper like Hoso paper. I had a garden shed in Wales and now I have a garden shed in London, that's where I do stencils and it's a lot of fun because i've taken the scale of what I've been doing up quite a bit. I like starting with a small stencil and then project it onto a larger scale. I do find that a lot of stencil stuff is limited by A4, A2, A1, A0... but it doesn't have to be. The important thing is to break away from that... like Blek, he's broken away from that.
Why in the streets?
Because it's fun. People get to see it and it surprises people; also you don't have to ask permission, nobody tells you what you have to do: for example, if you do a project for a company, they can say "Ok, we don't like that." Also, if you put 5 hours into a stencil, everytime you go out to the streets and do that stencil, you multiply that time; so if you do that stencil 10 times, it's 10 times 5 hours: 50 hours. Everytime you do that stencil in the streets, you add 5 hours of work in the street. I also just get a thrill out of it: doing a stencil, getting away with it and coming back to see it. Sometimes people will destroy it so you have to be quite zen about that. Sometimes people will almost forget that it's there and they don't destroy it. It's really nice when you walk past something that has been there for years and years and years: it starts to decay, the wall starts to crack and the paint starts to fade... I like that.
Do you have any favourite spots?
I do a lot of painting in London, in the Eastend. Brick Lane is also really good. I've recently moved to London Fields so I'm starting to explore that area and think how I can interact there. I went out to Palma about a month ago and I discovered painting on windmills. There are a lot of old windmills there. That was really cool, I'd never painted on a windmill before. The last time I was here in Barcelona, in 2005, I had a really good time painting. It's one of my favourite cities to paint. But it has changed a lot, I've had a walk around today and it's been completely redone.
What or who are your main sources of inspiration?
Pop art is my biggest source of inspiration and then popular culture, what's happening in society, the way society throws up new forms of society and also strange things that happen to people. Horror films and all kinds of modern art.
Is there anyone you're particularly looking forward to meeting at Difusor?
Yes, I'm just looking forward to meeting m-city and having Polish vodka, that's gonna be fun! But, I was on the plane this morning, thinking I've no idea what's going to happen, who I'm going to meet. Maybe I'll meet people and we'll argue about where to paint or we'll make friends. It's good not to have any preconception about what's going to happen, just like I had no idea of what was going to happen in Paris (for the Stencil Project) apart from that I was going to meet Blek. Last time, I had brought sketches of what I was going to do, this time I'm more open. I just want to break out of the rectangle, the square, the box and take it as big as I can.
Is there anyone you'd really like to collaborate with?
There's no one in particular, I want to interact with everybody. Last time, there were some Italians stencils artists who were really good and I didn't know them before. So I'll probably want to collaborate with someone I haven't encountered before. They're the ones that are going to be interesting. That's what makes it good: seeing something new that I'm not expecting.
Any interesting plans for the future?
some exhibitions and then I'm planning to go out to Sarajevo. I'll do the Guernica here in Barcelona, that'll be part 1 and I'm planning on doing more in different cities. So I'll do it next in Sarajevo if I can get permission. If I can't get permission, i'll just do it anyway. I also did a Pure Evil solo show in London and I'd like to turn it into a circus, like a touring show. I don't really have a lot of desire to work with galleries, I'd rather just have a space and do it independently like what we did for Santa's Ghetto in London: we rented a store and actually set up the exhibition in there. I'd like to be able to organise that, to find that kind of space, come down, set up, do it for 5 days and then disappear and go somewhere else.
So it's quite important for you to show your work outside of art galleries...
Yeah, I think so. I think that the most important thing about working in the streets is that you don't have to discuss it with anybody else. In the past, I've had various jobs, I've done textile design, graphic design and it was difficult to work with a company because you got an idea and they came back with something else. There always was that kind of artist/client kind of thing and with galleries, you also get an artist/gallery thing. If you make decisions by commitee, you always have a bit of this and a bit of that; but it shouldn't be a democratic thing. That's what makes a Picasso a Picasso and a Warhol a Warhol: they just did their own thing. That's why we work in the streets; maybe someone will walk past and say "wow!", maybe someone will walk past and not like the work but maybe a thousand people will walk past in one day; and also not the kind of people who normally go to galleries. There's a kind of poetry about having something in the streets, in a doorway...
Have you had any trouble with the police?
I've been caught 3 times but I haven't been arrested because I don't really look like a graffiti artist, so I can always pretend that I'm not. Because I don't fit the demographics, I can just say "Oh... I'm just standing here with paint... I'd just thought... I'm really sorry, officer". They haven't really worked out that I'm responsible for thousands of bunnies over the Eastend of London.
What has been your best experience painting?
Barcelona, last time. I did a really big piece behind the MACBA and I met up with the guys from 1980 crew, Chanoir and a bunch of other guys. We did two whole walls together. And then the Stencil Project in Paris was probably just as good because you feel you're part of a community. It's also nice to be able to paint legally, to have a city say "welcome!" to you. It's nice to feel you're bringing something creative to a place.
If you could paint anything anywhere, what would you do and where?
I'd like to do a whole city, paint all the roof tops so you could see it from space or something like that. Or something like the architect who designed Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil. It was a space in the middle of nowhere and he designed the streets, the architecture, the important buildings... Doing something like that would be pretty amazing, to do it in a way that you could see it from space. It'd have a signature or something that you'd recognise but when you're living on the ground, it wouldn't be an artist fantasy, it'd be practical to live in. It could be seen as a metaphor for how art can transform people's lives.
What do you think of the zero tolerance regarding street art/graffiti in cities like Barcelona, NY...?
I think it's pretty scary but in a way it's OK because the underground will always exist and fight back. If everyone was like "Yeah, come on... paint everything!" it'd be completely different. It'd be good too, i remember when I was walking in Barri gotic and finding a Miss Van on a door or finding all these different characters (characters are my thing, not letters), that was amazing. Having a whole city that actually had a 100% tolerance rather than a zero tolerance is pretty good. But having a zero tolerance here makes me want to go out and paint tonight... but we'll see.
What impact do you think these policies are going to have on the artistic movement in the streets?
It's suddenly a big thing. Suddenly everyone's focusing on it, discussing it. People go painting in the streets, politicians are screaming about it and then they'll find something else to worry about. In 5 years time it'll probably come back. We're not going to stop, it's been going on since caveman time. People have always wanted to be able to say something and to feel like they're not just an ant in a city. It's like saying "I'm here".