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Feature: Portuguese artist Vhils recreates city in museum

English.news.cn   2014-07-05 04:50:56

by Marina Watson Pelaez

LISBON, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Internationally renowned Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known as Vhils, is taking his artwork from the streets to a museum for the first time in Lisbon on Friday with his solo show "Dissection" at the EDP foundation, one of Portugal's main art institutions.

The spectator is welcomed through an audio-visual experience in a dark passage way, with sounds of television zapping, trains and heart beats amid visual saturation on television screens, aimed at reflecting how contemporary society afflicts us.

"It's a cacophony which contemplates how cities affect its citizens," the 27-year-old artist told Xinhua. "I grew up in the fringe of the suburbs seeing how development took over, and realized through travelling that the same process occurs around the world, changing different communities and areas."

Vertigo is also a part of the theme, with a flight of stairs on a scaffolding offering spectators a view of his white styrofoam sculpture of a city.

"Don't worry," Vhils assured. "I've jumped on this to test it out myself."

From high up, if you look closely you can see he has played with the city sculpture to create portraits using light and shadows, so that the face can be a city or the city can be a face.

"My focus is on the shadows, rather than the lights of the city, and how elements shape us rather than us shaping them," Vhils said.

Vhils is unique among the world's urban artists, exploring the aesthetics of decay using the French decollage technique from the 1960s, which involves carving or tearing away an original surface, but also works overlaying billboards, usually using metal plates with acid.

Vhils is known for his sculptures of ordinary people carved on walls, but also for his created explosions in abandoned buildings.

As the audience continue through the exhibition, in one of the nine white rooms, television screens showed walls on abandoned walls with words like "apathy," "lifeless," "subreality," and "nonplace," blow up in slow motion, creating an almost soothing effect.

"Walls absorb history and cover it. So a spark ignites an explosion to bring back the layers. It's about humanizing the public space," Vhils explained.

"My aim with this work is to divide the city's body, to find its organs and it's diseases."

He added: "The idea came up with the crisis in Europe and the division of Europe and countries protecting themselves."

He displayed other aspects of his multifaceted work along nine different white cubicle rooms, through videos and compositions on wooden unhinged doors or on iron surfaces.

Perhaps the greatest metaphor for his "dissected body" is reflected in the constituent parts of the front carriage of an underground train, again in white, to symbolize amnesia, hung lengthwise.

Asked if he felt he was betraying his identity as a street artist, Vhils said he doesn't like tags.

"Graffiti gave me the background I have today, it gave me the conscience of working in public spaces," he said. "The theme is cities, you don't have to put a tag on it."

Vhils is leaving his imprint around the world, in cities like Shanghai, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. His work was first presented to the public in the Cans Festival in London in 2008 with his portrait appearing next to the work of British artist Banksy.

Portugal's street art market is now gaining more attention, with government officials highlighting how important it is to attract tourism.

Vhils' exhibition opening ceremony is on Friday and will be open to the public until Oct. 5.

On Friday, Lisbon's Museum of Design and Fashion (Mude) will also be opening an exhibition by French-Portuguese street artist Andre Saraiva.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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