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- to mid-2000s.
His groundbreaking carving technique – which forms the basis of the Scratching the Surface project and was first presented to the public at the VSP group exhibition in Lisbon in 2007 and at the Cans Festival in London the following year –, has been hailed as one of the most compelling approaches to art created in the streets in the last decade.
I first discovered Vhils work in Bangkok, An avid experimentalist, he has been developing his concept of the aesthetics of vandalism in a plurality of media – from stencil painting to wall carvings, from pyrotechnic explosions to 3D modelling, from installation to music videos – which have enabled him to expand the boundaries of visual expression.
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. An ongoing reflection on identity, on life in contemporary urban societies and their saturated environments, it explores themes such as the struggle between the aspirations of the individual and the demands of everyday life, or the erosion of cultural uniqueness in the face of the dominant model of globalised development and the increasingly uniform reality it has been imposing around the world. It speaks of effacement but also of resistance, of destruction yet also of beauty in this overwhelming setting, exploring the connections and contrasts, similarities and differences, between global and local realities.