Alexandre Farto aka “Vhils” – Artist Interview
Vhils was Interviewed on 10/10/2016
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Alexandre Farto aka Vhils and I come from Seixal, a suburban town on the South Bank of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.
What does your name “Vhils” mean?
Vhils has no real meaning. It simply came about by combining the letters I most liked to draw and paint when I was an active graffiti writer, so it was chosen purely for formal reasons. When I first started exhibiting work indoors I was already known as Vhils so I decided to keep it and use it alongside my real name.
Have you been to art school?
I studied visual arts in secondary school in Portugal, then did the foundational degree in Fine Arts Skills and Practices at University of the Arts London (Central St Martins College of Art and Design) in the UK, but I’ve always regarded graffiti as my first art school as it was in effect my gateway into the art world. Not only did it foster my interest in the visual arts, most of what I do today is still based on techniques and concepts I came across or started developing back when I was an active graffiti writer. University basically enabled me to explore a range of classical techniques I was interested in learning, but most of my work and the experimentation surrounding it was achieved outside school or university, mainly in exploring and working in the urban environment and learning how to interact with it and how to respond to it.
What is the best thing about street art? And the worst?
The best thing is the freedom, the way it allows you to operate at will in the city space and put up work which has the potential to reach and touch a vast, heterogenous audience. The single worst thing I can think of is how some businesses have been trying to profit from what is a spontaneous, uncontrolled phenomenon due to its popularity.
What inspires you these days?
Literally anything and everything can be inspiring, but my main source of inspiration is the urban environment itself and the people and communities who live in it and make it what it is.
Who are your heroes?
I’m not a believer in heroes, but I have much respect for the countless ordinary people who have to struggle with the demands of everyday life in contemporary urban societies.
What about artists? Who are some of your favorite artists?
I admire and follow the work of too many artists to mention here, but a few favourites are Gordon Matta-Clark, Katharina Grosse, Anish Kapoor, AkaCorleone, ±MaisMenos±, Os Gêmeos, Barry McGee, Faile, Interesni Kazki, Cyrcle, JR, Blu, Word 2 Mother, Martha Cooper, Conor Harrington, How & Nosm, Finok, PixelPancho and many, many others…
Do you have any preferred surfaces to work on?
Street art comes with a thousand different facets to it. How would you describe your personal style?
A work that uses the stencil as a symbolic window that can help reveal what lies beneath the surface of things, exposing beauty through destructive means of creation.
Are you generally satisfied with your work?
Yes, but even when I’m not, I like to learn from mistakes or what went wrong and make them part of the piece, whether it was the shitty conditions of the wall or materials, the weather, being tired, etc.
Of all the work you’ve done, which is your favorite project?
All of them. I can’t really choose. Regardless of the size or context they are all special to me in some way.
Where can people find you?
What’s ahead for you?
The future! Hopefully a long and productive one.