Last Thursday night, we were lucky enough to attend the opening night of Alexandre Farto aka Vhils’ new exhibition ‘Dissonance’ at the Lazarides Gallery in the West End. The exhibition showcases a style of mediums and formats demonstrating the level of Vhils’ multidisciplinary capabilities. Vhils started as a prolific graffiti writer in the early 2000’s in his native Portugal and since then has gone on to develop and hone his groundbreaking and unique approach to street art. Vhils exhibition sets to express the “struggle between aspirations of the individual and demanding, saturated environment of the urban spaces he lives in. The mixed media work highlights and exposes the sombre dimension that lies behind the current model of development and the material aspirations it encompasses.” (press release).
Vhils was exceptionally kind enough to explain the process behind his various methods employed in this exhibition in an online interview with us at London Calling, as he was disappointed he didn’t have time to explain to us at the opening night. Of the variety of mediums employed in the show Vhils states that “despite their technical differences, the concept behind the work process in each of these four mediums is similar. Based on the notion of employing destructive means in order to create, they express a process that explores the practices of subtraction and removal – a kind of reverse stenciling.”
“The pieces comprising the Diorama series are created with the aid of a hot-wire foam cutter. Once the composition has been achieved and vectorized it is fed to the machine which then cuts blocks of foam according to the design. Once these are cut they are glued together and the work is finalized by hand to remove irregularities.” (Vhils 2015).
This incredible portrait is carved into polystyrene. This was one of our favourite pieces in the show, outstanding, such an interesting medium employed to create this incredible portrait. It really stands out as the first work to greet you upon entering the exhibit, and was the only piece displayed in this medium.
“The wood pieces are carved with the aid of chisels, Dremel rotary tools or even a simple utility knife, depending on the characteristics of the material. In some cases I also employ laser carving. For the more complex pieces, the process involves creating a composition that is divided into sections that correspond to a different pattern or image. Each of these is then carved directly onto a single unit and then cut into pieces to provide the material to create the final composition.” (Vhils 2015).
Of the wood based pieces in the show, this was our favourite, spread across the two panels.
On multiple wood panels, pieced together.
On multiple wood panels.
“Metal plates are etched with the aid of nitric acid following a process very similar to that used in creating engraving plates for printing techniques. The parts you want to conserve are covered with an oil-based bitumen and then placed in an acid bath – the acid eats into the parts that are left exposed, creating the image. The complex compositions are created in the same way as the wooden compositions: by cutting and assembling different etched metal plates.” (Vhils 2015).
“The Billboard series are carved directly into thick agglomerates of advertising posters using a utility knife, although some are also laser-carved.” (Vhils 2015).
In the adverts that would grace such billboards, the men and women traditionally in adverts are air-brushed, smooth, lacking in texture and two-dimensional, where as the portraits and men and women he has created are born out of uneven textured surfaces, providing a juxtaposition with the smooth textures usually associated with men and women on billboards. He has created layers and depth in something fundamentally shallow.
Stripped layers from a billboard.
The diversity of the material and mediums he has used, challenge their surfaces, and make the process of creating the art as equally important as the finished piece. Working on the basis of subtraction in art, as opposed to building the piece up really makes for a harder route, as once you have taken something away, the way Vhils does, it can’t be put back, really demonstrates how concise and confident he is in his actions.
The information on the individual methods and techniques were provided by Vhils in an email interview he was kind enough to take the time and grant us. Thanks so much for your time and insight Alexandre Farto, it really helped bring the process and subsequently the pieces to life for us, incredibly appreciated. The exhibition runs until April 23rd, be sure to check it out if you can, as it is a truely incredible and unique to anything else in the street art category we have thus far witnessed here at London Calling.