Alexandre Farto, who goes by the alias “Vhils”, is an internationally acclaimed Portuguese Urban artist. His is known by his large-scale intricate portraits of ordinary people which he carves directly into the walls. His unique skill in finding the beauty in anonymity, creating iconic yet unknown portraits, will stand the test of time.
Having grown up in the outskirts of Lisbon during the Carnation Revolution in 1974, he was surrounded by urban graffiti expressing socialist dreams in the midst of the military coup against the authoritarian government.
The young Vhils became fascinated with the contrast between the revolutionary murals and the stark reality of the advertising culture of “New Portugal”, the spawn of capitalism spreading across the country. He liked the way in which the city walls were able to absorb the rapidly changing social and historical changes that were happening around them.
“I don’t really like to think of myself as an artist, but I remember I was always drawing as a child, and when I was around ten years old I became fascinated with the graffiti I saw in the streets on my way to school. And it was long after that I was out there tagging and bombing with other kids. So, I regard graffiti as my first art school”.
This sparked Vhils’ own kind of excavating, dissecting capitalist posters and drilling into walls to uncover the layers beneath. “That was a method for bringing the past to the present, to think about the future, somehow. You could actually call it archaeology, a different kind of archaeology.” And thus, Vhils was born.
Shoulder to Shoulder With Banksy
The defining moment of Vhils’ career took place back in 2008 at London’s Cans Festival when the Portuguese artist created a mural to complement Banksy’s own piece. For The Times photographer who caught the work in progress, it was a case of right place at the right time. The image was featured on the front page of the newspaper and Vhil’s fame took off.
Vhil’s was spotted by Steve Lazarides, the street art agent and the Lazarides gallery has been supporting him ever since. Vhil’s was included among the most celebrated and pioneering artists in at the Lazarides gallery 10th anniversary exhibition.
Vhils continues to create his socially conscious street art and believes in street art as an effective art form for communication and revolution. Recently, Vhils’ “Dissonância” was included in an auction organised by Street Art Anarchy for ART BEAT, a day of art and music in Camden. The portrait sold for 560.00 and all the proceeds went to UNICEF in support of Syrian children.