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“I chose Vhils because the name consists of five letters that I could write as quickly as possible without breaking line” says Alexander Farto on his graffiti moniker, which he continues to be known for despite moving on from the art form. Born in the outskirts of Lisbon in a town that had been affected by 1974′s Carnation Revolution, Vhils grew up surrounded by socialist propaganda murals and advertisements from a developing capitalist society that “sold dreams that never came true.” Such imagery was plastered atop each other, developing layers of social systems that shared different beliefs. Trading his spray can for the drill, Vhils started dissecting posters and walls, carving out portraits of locals that were affected by the surrounding changes.
Harnessing a unique approach to portrait making, Vhils’ work has been widely celebrated and has been exhibited in Paris, London, Shanghai and Lisbon, with his most recent exhibition “Dissection” taking place at the Electric Museum Lisbon. In his Essentials for us, we get a glimpse at the tools needed for his pursuit — hammer, drills, blades and spray cans — alongside photo books from Cai Guo-Qiang and JR, and a sticker of Underdog, a gallery he started to showcase innovative artists otherwise bypassed by the mainstream. Enjoy Vhils’ Essentials above and check out a recap of “Dissection” here.