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.
His unique approach and artwork have been garnering critical acclaim around the world.
Ahead of his exhibition at Fundação EDP, Vhils answered a few questions on Lisbon for us:
– Secret location?
The abandoned Panoramic Restaurant in Monsanto (http://www.ruigaiola.com/reportagem-restaurante-panoramico-de-monsanto/)
The abandoned Trafaria Fort on the south bank across from Lisbon, which has unique, incredible views over the river, Lisbon and the Cascais line (http://www.lugaresesquecidos.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=163)
– Best view?
Miradouro de Santa Catarina
Miradouro da Graça
– A guilty pleasure?
Half a dozen pastéis de Belém eaten in 10 minutes.
– What’s the weirdest thing you’ve experienced in Lisbon?
Cais do Sodré after 4 in the morning.
– Where can we find you on a Saturday afternoon?
– A perfect day with the family?
Family dinner at my parents’ in Seixal.
– A trend for Lisbon’s future?
We’re seeing an increasing number of restaurants and shops that are valuing what is produced and created locally, shedding all prejudice of being Portuguese. People are also increasingly viewing the city and what it has to offer in terms of culture and art. There is a growing global awareness of what Lisbon is and can be.
– Favourite drink in the city? Coolest place to have a drink?
Drink a beer at 36 in Bairro Alto.
– What can you do here & nowhere else?
Check all the beautiful art that you have in every street; have a beer in the streets of Bairro Alto; enjoy a great evening at Lux without having any problems regarding who you are, what you wear or look like.
– Favourite book/band/movie?
Book: “The Age of Reason” by Jean Paul Sartre
Band: Schoolboy Q and Orelha Negra
Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
– Do you have a favourite work piece? If so, which one and where is it?
I’m working on it right now at the silo at EDP Foundation/Electricity Museum in Belém
– Is there one that was far more time-consuming than all the others?
A piece that was done next to Segunda Circular here in Lisbon, carved on a massive, fortified concrete building. It was supposed to take two days but due to technical reasons it ended up taking eight days with a team of three to four people working full-time on it.
– Something you cannot resist?
A “prego” (steak sandwich) or smoked mackerel at Sea Me restaurant.
– Someone to take out for dinner?
There is no shortage of interesting people in this world but in Lisbon I’d take Branko or Kalaf from Buraka Som Sistema.
– Someone NOT to be stuck on an elevator with?