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Carving Narratives: The Artistic Journey of Vhils

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Born in Lisbon in 1987 and raised in Seixal, Vhils’ artistic journey began at a young age. At just 10, he was drawn to graffiti, captivated by the vibrant street art that adorned his path to school. By 13, he was actively painting on the streets, initially on walls and later on trains, traversing Portugal and Europe to leave his artistic signature. This early exposure to graffiti laid the foundation for his professional trajectory, ingraining in him a profound understanding of public space communication. He transitioned from using spray cans to stencils and later diversified into other tools and processes, reflecting a constant evolution in his artistic approach.

Vhils’ breakthrough came when he moved to London at 19, studying Fine Arts at St. Martin’s School. It was here that his distinctive style of creating anonymous portraits on damaged walls and vacant house facades began gaining international recognition. Invited to showcase his work at the Cans Festival, organized by Banksy, Vhils’ career took a remarkable turn, leading to exhibitions at prominent galleries like Lazarides Gallery in London and Studio Cromi in Italy.

His art, characterized by a unique bas-relief carving technique, revolutionized street art. Vhils’ method involves subtractive creation, where he meticulously removes layers of walls and surfaces to unveil striking portraits. This process, which he describes as “destructive creation,” mirrors his philosophy that destruction in art can reveal and construct new forms of beauty and meaning. This approach not only brought a new dimension to street art but also highlighted the transient nature of urban spaces and the forgotten stories embedded in their layers.

Throughout his career, Vhils has used a variety of materials and tools, including explosives, pneumatic hammers, bleach, and acids, alongside traditional sprays and stencils. His experimentation with different media underlines his commitment to pushing the boundaries of urban art. He believes in the importance of the artistic process, often filming his work to emphasize the journey of creation.

Vhils’ art is not merely an aesthetic endeavor but a social commentary. His choice of anonymous faces as subjects gives a voice to ordinary people, making the invisible visible and bringing to the forefront the stories of those often overlooked by society. His work is a reflection on urban development, globalized culture, and the loss of individual and collective identities amidst these changes.

Vhils’ influence extends beyond street art. He has collaborated with notable figures like Banksy and has worked on projects worldwide, including cities like London, Moscow, and New York. He founded the Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon, a cultural platform fostering relationships between artists, the public, and the city. Furthermore, his involvement as a curator and programmer for the Festival Iminente showcases his dedication to promoting urban culture in its myriad forms.

His venture into digital art, particularly through NFTs, marks another evolution in his artistic journey, blending traditional techniques with modern technology. This move not only showcases his adaptability but also his understanding of art’s evolving landscape in the digital age.

Vhils’ journey teaches several key lessons. First, the power of art in transforming and reclaiming urban spaces, giving them new life and meaning. Second, the importance of evolving and experimenting with different mediums and techniques. Finally, his work underscores the significance of art as a tool for social commentary and change.

In summary, Vhils’ life story is a vivid tapestry of artistic evolution, societal engagement, and constant innovation. From the streets of Lisbon to the global art scene, his journey is a testament to the transformative power of art and its ability to speak volumes, even in silence.

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