Art with a bang - Portugal's VHILS blasts through barriers

Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:32am EST
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By Andrei Khalip

LISBON (Reuters) - Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known by the tag name VHILS from his graffiti days, literally shakes the foundations when he explodes powder charges inserted into stucco facades, or drills and carves into bricks and concrete with power tools.

As dust settles, stunningly lifelike pictures of rugged faces are revealed. Their vivid, deep eyes stare at passersby from walls in Sydney and Shanghai, Moscow and London, Rio de Janeiro and Honolulu, and many places in between.

The 27-year-old's fame has recently outgrown the boundaries of street art, with his first large personal exhibition hitting the museum circuit earlier this year. Just this week he launched a video crafted for the Irish band U2.

The video "Raised by Wolves", filmed in slow motion to capture VHILS's explosive creations in the suburbs of Lisbon where he was born, is part of the Films of Innocence project, "a visionary collection of 11 films by the world’s most vital urban visual artists", according to U2's website.

It was Lisbon and its suburbs, with the decadent charm of dilapidated facades, abandoned warehouses and 1970s revolutionary murals now covered with layers of advertising and graffiti, that inspired VHILS to swap the spray can for carving tools around 2004 and later add explosives to his arsenal.

"I was always interested in those places that expose a bit of the city's fragility, show that everything is ephemeral," VHILS told Reuters in his Lisbon studio, once a garage.


Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known by the tag name VHILS, holds a interview at his study in Lisbon December 4, 2014.   REUTERS/Rafael Marchante