Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto (1987) has been interacting visually with the urban environment under the name of Vhils since his days as a prolific graffiti writer in the early 2000s. His groundbreaking carving technique – which forms the basis of the Scratching the Surface series and was first presented to the public at the VSP group show in Lisbon in 2007 and at the Cans Festival in London in 2008 –, has been hailed as one of the most compelling approaches to art created in the street in the last decade. This striking form of visual poetry, showcased around the world in both indoor and outdoor settings, has been described as brutal and complex, yet imbued with a simplicity that speaks to the core of human emotions, expressing the struggle between the aspirations of the individual and the demanding, saturated environment of the urban spaces he lives in, highlighting and exposing the sombre dimension that lies behind the current model of development and the material aspirations it encompasses – unsustainable, yet inebriating.
Vhils grew up in Seixal, an industrialised suburb across the river from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and was particularly influenced by the transformations brought on by the intensive urban development the country underwent in the 1980s and 1990s. An avid experimentalist, he has been developing his notion of the aesthetics of vandalism in a plurality of media – from stencil painting to wall carving, from pyrotechnic explosions to 3D modelling – which have enabled him to expand the boundaries of visual expression.
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