Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto aka Vhils (b. 1987) has developed a unique visual language based on the removal of the surface layers of walls and other media with non-conventional tools and techniques, establishing symbolic reflections on identity, the relationship of interdependence between people and the surrounding environment, and life in contemporary urban societies, as well as the impact of development, the passage of time, and material transformation.

Having begun to interact with the urban environment through the practice of graffiti in the early 2000s, Vhils has been hailed as one of the most innovative artists of his generation. His poignant, poetic portraits chiselled into flaking walls can be seen adorning cityscapes around the world. Based on his aesthetics of vandalism, Vhils destroys as a means to create. He carves, cuts, drills, etches and blasts his way through the layers of materials. Yet, like an archaeologist, he removes in order to expose, bringing to light the beauty that lies trapped beneath the surface of things.

Since 2005, he has presented his work in over 30 countries around the world in solo and group exhibitions, site-specific art interventions, artistic events and projects in various contexts – from working with communities in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, to collaborations with well-reputed artistic and museological institutions such as MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon (2022); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2020); Le Centquatre-Paris, Paris (2018); CAFA Art Museum, Beijing (2017); Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2016); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2014); EDP Foundation, Lisbon (2014); and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego (2010), among others. An avid experimentalist, besides his groundbreaking bas-relief carving technique – which forms the basis of the “Scratching the Surface” project –, Vhils has been developing his personal aesthetics in a plurality of media: from stencil painting to metal etching, from pyrotechnic explosions and video to sculptural installations. He has also directed several music videos, short films, and two stage productions.