An interview with Vhils


Our friend Michael Slenske got a couple moments of Vhils’ time and sent this interview over our way.  Enjoy.

In his new 25-piece show at Lazarides, Scratching The Surface, Vhils (aka Alexandre Farto) deftly explores the historical decay of the Lisbon streetscape (from post Carnation Revolution political hotbed to modern day ad repository) via demo’d walls, chiseled wooden reliefs, and acid-and-bleach-etched billboards . We talked to the Portuguese street star about the show on a break from his next conquest: Grottaglie, Italy for the Fame Festival.

MS: So did you alter the gallery walls in anyway (pneumatic drill, etc) like you did at the Outsiders show?

AF: Yes, I did several site specific installations in the gallery. I went to a building site in London and just took some wooden reliefs and walls and worked on them.
MS: What’s the inspiration behind Scratching The Surface?
AF: In this act of excavating, it’s the process itself which is expressive, more than the final result. It’s a process of trying
to reflect upon our own layers. Its 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, with the system: an active critical
process that stems from the same environment upon which it aims to reflect.

MS: And that is?
AF: After the [Carnation] Revolution you had political paintings on the street walls, but after five years everyone forgot about them. There was a big boom of advertising. It’s all about digging through these layers of history. I never know what layer I’m going to find.

MS: And these are the pieces you worked on with acid and bleach?

AF: Yeah, I ripped up billboards from the streets [of Lisbon].

MS: Where do those faces on the portraits come from?
AF: They’re street people from London and Lisbon. I had friends take pictures in the tubes or at train stations, and I saved photos from old newspapers. The idea is why shouldn’t everyone be icon? It wasn’t about the people, it’s about the confrontation, the juxtaposition between our consumption culture — all the needs advertisers create — and our individuality. Growing up in Lisbon, that becomes part of you somehow.

MS: Which do you prefer, street art or gallery pieces?
AF: I like to do both, I don´t discriminate between them. You have to adapt your work to its environment.  On the street, people pass by quickly every day and you need to be more direct, and play with the idea of creation something unexpected. But if you just take something from the street and put it inside, it´s going to lose its context.  You have to have a reason to go inside – a subject or  something you want to question.  It has to be about more than just making the work sellable.

More images from the show here

~Michael Slenske

photo via WallKandy

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