Explosives, metal, wood, and acid are just a few of the tools street artist Vhils, a.k.a. Alexandre Farto, uses to explore "the aesthetics of vandalism." Active for the last 15 years, Vhils is famous for his wall-etched and stenciled portraits, which incorporate derelict buildings and plaster fragments into their designs. But the artist also works with other media, including cork, wood, metal, neon, styrofoam, and paper.
The artist currently has a new solo exhibition on view at the Contemporary Art Center in Macau called Debris – Works by Alexandre Farto aka Vhils, showcasing 20 new artworks inspired by the region. The new works are featured alongside 20 of his previous pieces. Four of the new works will be public murals dedicated to and inspired by the city's residents.
Like many of his previous works, the murals are created by carving away layers of walls using tools like drills and sprays. Along with his carved murals, Vhils is making billboards for the exhibition, which he's created from posters gathered on the streets of Macau. Carvings made from locals doors, metal plates etched with acid, styrofoam sculptures, video installations—including an immersive slow-motion piece shot on the streets of Macau—and more will be on view.
"Debris intends to reflect on the convergence of time and history, construction and demolition, arriving at layered compositions that embody a microcosm of the human condition, positioned within the dynamic stimuli imperative to Macau's identity," notes the exhibition's press release. The new show is a part of a traveling exhibition by Vhils which began in Hong Kong last year. Pieces created in each city will tour and feature in subsequent exhibitions, so works from Hong Kong are on display in Macau, including his neon portraits.
Through the murals and his other pieces, Vhils likes to reflect on and integrate the urban character of the place he's working in, including its architectural heritage and history. Most explicitly, this can be felt in his murals, where the natural erosion of the older structures are incorporated as part of his creative technique.
Speaking about the new artworks inspired by Macau, Vhils told the Macau Daily Times, "For me the concept that I worked on is always [part of] the elements in the city, as they have layers that absorb the history of the place. With each wall that I carve and all the layers that I exposed, they were kind of layers of time. With that, I'm playing with the layers of the walls that were built for years and years. The portraits that I drew in the city are [inspired] by the people that pass by. So those two elements are the ones from Macau that I wanted to connect; the carvings are part of the people that have been here."