Portugese street artist Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils, has made his first journey to Australia thanks to Berlin-based Australian art dealers Kelly Reiffer and Rory Schmitz of Skalitzers Berlin, a contemporary art gallery focused on the work of the world’s top urban artists.
Reiffer and Schmitz bought Vhils to Australia in association with Art Month Sydney and The Rocks Popup to open an exhibition of his work in Sydney and to cut (literally) some wicked murals on walls in both Sydney and Perth.
Using chisels, hammers, acid, bleach, and even explosives, Vhils creates momentous portraits carved into walls, posters, wood, metal, and other surfaces. “With my work, I try to delve into the several layers that compose the edifice of history, to take the shadows cast by this model of uniform development, to try and understand what lies behind it,” the artist explains.
Vhils is an artist of the contradictory and the contrasting, an excavator of the old and a facilitator of the new. Where other street artists add, Vhils subtracts. His practice is one of creation through destruction – a process of revelation by elimination. He is at once both the antithesis and the progeny of the traditional graffiti street artist.
His first Australian exhibition, “Dissolve,” features a range of works utilising a variety of different surfaces from walls to doors to posters. The exhibition continues a visual narrative that Vhils has been developing since 2007 where the city itself becomes the primary medium in both a physical and conceptual sense, physically as the artist’s canvas and conceptually as a communicator of the fundamental relationship between the individual and his surrounding environment.
The feature of the “Dissolve” exhibition is a wall mural depicting Lorna and Jenny Munro - two Aboriginal activists which Vhils met during his time in Sydney, and whose activities resonate with the topics the artist explores in his work. Vhils also executed another large wall mural while in Sydney of environmental and union activist Jack Mundey, once again using his signature process of subtraction and deconstruction.
In operation since 2009, Skalitzers Contemporary Art is a contemporary art gallery with an international focus on artists whose work within the urban environment has or continues to be an important part of their career. Based in Berlin and owned by Australian Directors Kelly Reiffer and Rory Schmitz, Skalitzers has a permanent base in Berlin and works in temporary spaces in Australia. Their first Australian show was in Perth in 2011/2012 with the Belgian artist ROA in conjunction with FORM. This is their first Sydney show.
Vhils’ solo exhibition “Dissolve” is on in Sydney until 6 April at 140 George St. For more information visit the Skalitzers website here
See a video of Vhils working in Sydney below. Video by Silvia Lopes