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Magazine Art + Culture | 03 Mar 2016



The faces he creates communicate as if they had a voice. This was the way Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils, found to make the invisible visible, to raise awareness of subjects and contexts that remained silenced or in the shadow of a fully global world. With an multi-medium approach to art – from stencil painting to sculpture, or pyrotechnical explosions, 3D modelling and video –, Vhils was considered, in 2015, personality of the year by the Foreign Press Association in Portugal, the Portuguese person to have most contributed to lifting the country’s name beyond its borders. Vhils tells ROOF how participating in the public space is “a veritable democratic act”.


If your face was carved into the wall of any city in the world what should we, or do we need, to know about it?

Perhaps that, at the end of the day, we all have a face, an identity and that we are humans. The world needs to be more human. With dignity.

At what point in your life did you start to explore the technique, or techniques, that today make your work known and valued around the world?

Most of the techniques that I have been applying in the various bodies of work I develop today owe their beginnings to the days in which I illegally painted graffiti, at the start of the 2000s, to the various processes of inscribing my name on various surfaces, such as walls and trains. That is to say, despite what I do today not being graffiti, it owes much to it in terms of tools, techniques and ideas. That’s where the concept to create through destructive methods comes from, using an aesthetic of vandalism based on processes of manipulation and removal of materials and surfaces to develop a reflection on the urban space in the contemporary world, the communities that live in it, the cultural rapprochement that we have been witnessing through the process of globalisation, as well as the asymmetries that this produces and the growing cultural standardisation underway. In short, it is a blend of techniques that come from graffiti, from stencilling and from others that I have been developing through experimentation with materials that originate in the urban space. I tend to think that the work, in the end, is a product of the chaos of the city, of the environment in which I grew up and of the influences that I have had in my life.

Why murals and what do they allow you to create that other surfaces do not?

For me, every surface or material can be worked on, as long as they have good layers and have a given historic or symbolic value that fits within the reflection that the work aims to develop. In addition to the material and technical characteristics that allow you to work directly with surfaces that have come to absorb characteristics of the places they are located, walls offer the opportunity to develop work on a large scale in the public space, which will be seen by and have an impact on the wider public.

Bruce Mau said “allow yourself the fun of failure every day”. Is failing a condition for the evolution of the creative process?

Always, just as the act of destruction is. In my work, either mistakes, or unexpected results aren’t seen negatively. In the processes of experimentation I develop, often it’s the mistakes that point me in new and unexpected directions, which then give rise to bodies of work.

Featured in ROOF 1

Text: Cátia Fernandes
Photos: Vhilstudio

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