Scratching beneath the surface of the streets

Portuguese street artist Vhils makes portraits by hacking, drilling and ripping into buildings. His first monograph has just been published by Gestalten and contains some striking imagery of his work

Scratching the Surface project, Cali, Colombia

Portuguese street artist Vhils makes portraits by hacking, drilling and ripping into buildings. His first monograph has just been published by Gestalten and contains some striking imagery of his work…

Vhils is the moniker that artist Alexandre Farto uses for his street art, which has appeared on – or rather, out of – walls across cities all over the world.

In their preface to the new book, the Wooster Collective’s Marc and Sara Schiller write: “By removing bits of plaster and paint, by peeling away layers of history, Vhils reveals the emotion and humanity of his subjects, who are largely unknown – photographed on the streets of Portugal or London, or pulled from old magazines and newspapers found at local flea markets.

“This excavation, often a process of violent removal, stands in sharp contrast to the delicate portraits discovered hidden underneath.”

Scratching the Surface project, Los Angeles, US (collaboration with JR)

Scratching the Surface project, Nu Art Festival, Stavanger, Norway (photo: Angelo Milano)

“In Vhils’ hands, vandalism becomes an act of creation,” the Schillers continue before concluding with a quote from Vhils himself. “In this act of excavation,” he says,” it’s the process which is expressive, more than the final result. It’s a process of trying to reflect upon our own layers.

“My aim is not to come up with solutions but to conduct research – to confront systems, materials, processes, elements, to create friction and confront the individual with the process.”

Scratching the Surface project, Kashima (Gunkan Jima), Japan (glue and ground dirt)

Part of Scratching the Surface exhibition, Lazarides Gallery, London

From Museum Ruins show at Mace Contemporary Art Museum, Elvas, Portugal

To Have Or To Be series (billboard posters dipped in resin, white paint)

Detail of portrait from Scratching the Surface project, Cali, Colombia

Vhils is out now from Gestalten; £37.50 and available to buy, here. More of Vhils’ work at alexandrefarto.com.

 

CR in Print

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