Halloween at High Mill in Dundee takes place under the watch of one of the country's best contemporary artists. But watch out for skeletons and fanged rabbits
Charley Edwards, aka Pure Evil, whose signature sprayed motif is a weird, fanged bunny rabbit, has found a huge place to play in at the Verdant Works.
© Phillipe Bonan
Built for a merchant and flax spinner in 1833, this powerhouse mill used to drive 70 power looms via three steam engines, employing 500 people across its 25,000 square feet at a time when jute – a plant-extracted, gold-coloured fibre – was a vital part of Dundee’s industry.
“It’s mental – it’s just a humungous place with loads of beams,” Edwards says, by way of describing a site taken over by a heritage trust 24 years ago, retaining rickety hints of its former life such as the stone channel which once powered the mill.
“There’s an industrial kind of mill machine that’s been revamped at the end of it which is gonna be able to turn on and just make loads of noise. It’s a really, really industrial space. It just looks beautiful. It’s really high and so, you know, just walking around it is fun."
A descendant of Sir Thomas More, the 17th century Lord Chancellor and author of Utopia who was beheaded by Henry VIII, Edwards often adds strange, hopeful creatures to the walls he illuminates, full of the anarchic energy of the people behind Banksy’s Santa’s Grotto, who he met after returning from California 15 years ago.
© David Bebber
He says he was “pretty gobsmacked” to be part of the recent Dismaland, and is excited by his latest adventure beyond a traditional gallery space. He will also be playing “loads of wacky and wonderful” electronica. “I like the history of the place,” he says. “You’re at an advantage because you’re not in just a sort of empty, sterile white box.
“Actually being in there and playing some sounds in it is going to be brilliant. It’s a bit like being in a cathedral, the acoustics of the whole place. The way that the light is going to be cast onto beams is going to let the actual space be a big part of the event and kind of celebrate it.
© Pure Evil
"We don’t quite know exactly how it’s going to look but we know it’s going to look pretty awesome.”
He knew nothing of jute before Dundee won his visit in the Museums at Night festival’s Connect competition. “I had the whole tour of the museum when I went up there to do a site visit and I learnt about it on that day,” he admits. “What was funny was one of the other ones in the competition was the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge.
“It was an electronic vote system and I thought that maybe the computer whizzes would have hacked the system and got themselves, like, six million votes or something like that.
© Pure Evil
"But the jute museum won and it’s nice because it shows the democratic process in effect. It’s like, ‘yep, they got more votes than everyone else, so they get their doors darkened by Pure Evil’.”
This darkening will include new pieces laser-cut from sheets of Perspex. “And when I actually cut the face details out of the Perspexes, the bits that are left over are called the skeletons,” explains Edwards.
“I’m gonna be hanging these skeletons from the beams of the works. The light will be projected through the skeletons and some of them are semi-transparent so you’ll actually see a kind of light show of all these faces and different bits and pieces.
“We’re gonna pick about three different spots in Dundee and do live screenprinting. There’s gonna be a part of it in which people will be able to stencil and do their thing. There will be some spooky kids’ singing and just general mayhem, I think. It’s nice just letting people cut loose with a spraycan and seeing what kind of mess they get up to.”
© Pure Evil
Fans who can’t make it to Scotland can follow updates on the Pure Evil Instagram. Those in the city, meanwhile, should look out for a can-carrying figure. “I’ll be getting there the night before,” says Edwards, casually plotting his first artwork of the weekend. “Who knows...I might be out there painting a couple of bunny rabbits in Dundee.”
- Pure Evil: Hallowe’en at the High Mill is at Verdant Works on October 31 2015. Telephone 01382 309060 to book. Museums at Night runs October 30-31 2015. Visit museumsatnight.org.uk to find events near you.
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© Dundee Rep / Viktoria Begg
© Charley Edwards
© Pure Evil
© Pure Evil