Vhils - Alexandre Farto

Quem é Vhils? Conheça a história de Alexandre Farto


Graffiti art was not always a recognized or conventional cultural expression, at least until the arrival of the 21st century. Its story is as fascinating as that of Portuguese graffiti artist Alexandre Farto, better known as Vhils.

Vhils' work is part of the so-called Street Art or urban art, whose popularity exploded thanks to the graffiti of the 1970s in New York. Like all art, graffiti is a personal and subjective expression that can take the form of a rubric, social-political protest or seek a purely aesthetic purpose.

In the case of Vhils, there is a bit of everything, so we'll start by talking about its beginnings, which arose in the industrial district of Seixal, in Portugal.

Origin of Vhils

Every self-respecting artist has a more or less identifiable origin, and with Vhils it couldn't be otherwise. As he himself refers, Vhils made his first graffiti at age 12 on the surface of several trains in his city, with the sole intention of painting his tag there.

While uncommissioned street art risks being sanctioned and becomes an act of vandalism, the reality is that Vhils was unknowingly part of the history of what Americans call tagging or pseudonym signatures. Without tagging, it is impossible to understand the history of graffiti, nor Vhils himself, as this action gave rise to the proliferation of very diverse artistic sources on the canvas of the urban scene and made Vhils the great contemporary artist he is today.

We imagine his first adventures, spay in hand, through Portugal, where he was born in 1987. Seven years earlier, Street Art had already started to gain critical recognition but Vhils didn't know yet if this critic would welcome him with open arms in the near future .

The first years of the new millennium aroused in the Portuguese the need to continue to express themselves, and around 2004, he began to work with techniques such as stencil, etching, joining a great driver in his artistic life, the gallery owner Vera Cortés, who supported and promoted him in various exhibitions.

With the same creative impulse, Vhils ventured abroad to study at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. There, in Anglo-Saxon territory, he developed what has now become an innovative technique of international reference for the art of graffiti, the technique of “excavating” urban walls.

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Vhils sets a precedent

While the derelict areas of the South Bronx continued to witness intense graffiti activity, Lisbon's city walls were filled with bas-relief sculptures by Vhils during the early years of the millennium. And they left nothing to be desired from the work of their North American colleagues and counterparts at the Fashion Moda gallery, opened in the 1980s in the Bronx.

With some remnants of artistic interventionism, characterized by the modification of objects, environments and spaces, Vhils revealed in Scratching the Surface and at the London Cans Festival 2008 his already famous scratched images. And there, certainly, Vhils revolutionized the traditional approach to this classical technique with his work on the surface of buildings, an act that was profoundly influenced by the transformations that Portuguese urban growth underwent during the 1980s and 1990s.

Vhils, aware of the reorganization of the city's spaces and the fragility of some facades, not only goes through the more “superficial” side of them, but also their structural aspects. That's why he likes to modify and “destroy” the environment, so that viewers are more aware that the immobility of buildings and the safety of the environment are just a chimera.

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A committed and human artist

Vhils says that “being an artist was never among his plans, it was never an ambition” and that he learned what “discipline” is at street graffiti school. Vhils' transforming art, added to this type of particular statement, not only made him stand out as an avant-garde reference, but also as someone committed and human, very human.

This is demonstrated in his speeches around the world, where, in addition to making us reflect on the transitory, he brings us to an immediate and, unfortunately, hard reality. Vhils knows that his art can be an instrument of protest and a double-edged sword: on the one hand, the portrait of ordinary people turned into icons of citizen space; on the other, the use of risky techniques such as explosions and 3D modeling, which integrate its philosophy of destruction to new technologies.

Vhils - Alexandre Farto | P55 Magazine | P55 - The platform of Art

Notable Works by Vhils

Although Vhils is mostly known for his mural works, the truth is that urban portraits are only part of his artistic catalogue.

Making a review of the most striking and striking works by Vhils of recent times, we find some pieces such as the 2016 Flicker Series, in video installation format with remnants of Pop Art and Asian culture; the Highlight series from the same year in which Vhils creates 3D portraits with mounted foam and wire; the Gleam Series made of neon lights, which once again transports us to those streets of Japanese and American nights that have a taste of Blade Runner and retro-futurism; or the Diminish Series and the Palimpsest, from 2018 and 2019 respectively, which function as advertising posters collected directly from the street.

Of the latest installations, the highlight is Overexposure #01 from 2019, which, without losing the humanistic intention of the usual Vhils portraits, continues to invest in the use of innovative materials such as motion sensors, microcontrollers and tubular lamps, or the Gamut 2020 Series, that leave the most spectacular video installations for the eyes and senses.


Vhils | P55 Magazine | P55 - The platform of Art

Vhils on P55

On the Marketplace of P55, we can easily find works by Vhils, focusing mainly on his most figurative and human works of the portrait genre, his brand image as an artist.


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