The artist, Vhils (aka Alexandre Farto), is known for his incredible, tactile murals carved literally into the walls of buildings. And we just can’t get enough of his work — it’s stunning. His transformative art pieces strip away layers of paint and concrete to form beautiful images, often of faces. It seems unbelievable that one could get the level of detail he achieves. Even when watching the process from start to finish it’s hard to believe that it isn’t manipulated in some way.
Take his work with explosives. You may have seen his process in a music video collaboration with Orelha Negra. In the video, which has nearly a million views, the Portuguese artist uses carefully placed and timed explosives to reveal a face in the wall. The result is a hypnotizing, visual treat as you watch the wall explode in slow motion. The smoke clears and there’s a face left where there was just a wall before. There’s something so satisfying in watching something beautiful appear instantly out of nothing.
Vhils’ use of destruction to create more permanent pieces in the walls of decrepit and abandoned buildings has made him an important voice in the street art scene. And it makes his work so unique amongst his peers. Recently, I chatted with Vhils about his distinctive artwork, his process, and the way he looks under the surface of what is there to stretch the bounds of what is possible in street art.
What brought you to street art and graffiti?
At the age of ten I started noticing a growing presence of graffiti on the walls in my hometown and was immediately attracted to it. I soon started drawing and sketching and eventually became involved with the local graffiti scene. This became my gateway to the visual arts.
In my late teens, I started thinking about what I was doing and where I wanted to go from there and began experimenting with new techniques and tools. When I discovered stencilling I was immediately attracted to its possibilities, and things just evolved naturally from there.