World-renowned artist Alexandre Farto, a.k.a. Vhils is back in China, a country he finds inspiring. The Portuguese visual artist hits Shanghai again for a much-awaited new solo show at Danysz gallery, starting on March 23rd, 2019.
Fully focused on the works created during his stays in Beijing and Shanghai, the "Realm" show aims at being representative of the lives and the people of these cities. The works seek to reflect something of the essence of these cities in the deepest way.
Despite the repetition and uniformity of the material used (basic plaster boards that can be found on construction sites all around the world), Vhils manages to give each of his bas-relief carved portraits "either contemplative, or mysterious", a life and strength of their own. By bringing them together in the same space, he suggests that each feeds on the other and their environment to eventually compose a community together.
Vhils is renowned around the world for his unique carved portraits, using the walls of the cities as his sculptural material. Following the seminal work of Gordon Matta-Clark, Vhils carves the walls to reveal memories of the past lives they once witnessed.
Carving out the facades of old buildings, he creates impressively delicate portraits of the inhabitants, focusing on the human soul and attracting our attention to the men and women who make up our urban communities, questioning the link between them and these ever-expanding cities, often synonymous with dehumanisation.
By "scratching the surface" of city walls, as the artist himself puts it, Vhils unveils the history of cities. His signature language is truly unique: based on a reverse stencil technique, Vhils works by removing layers instead of adding some. The different stages of construction and evolution of the buildings reappear, from the oldest (in depth) to the most recent (on the surface). This quasi-archaeological exposure of the building's layers reveals a fragility, which also refers to that of human existence.
"Realm" is a unique exhibition featuring the use of a single medium worked with the author's signature bas-relief wall carving technique. Shanghai is the second iteration of this exhibition after it was first showcased at CAFA Art Museum in Beijing (under the title "Imprint"), back in 2017. Showing together portraits and street scenes, "Realm" gives us a deep humanistic vision of the cities where the artist created the pieces. Revealing how important it is for the artist to feed off the environment he is reflecting on, the exhibition at Danysz gallery features a set of pieces created and exhibited in Beijing alongside new works directly inspired by the city of Shanghai and its inhabitants, establishing a dialogue between the two cities. "Realm" is a museum-like large-scale installation that offers an immersive experience for the visitor who can stroll around this labyrinth.
Using multiple techniques and media (paper, metal, concrete, wood, polystyrene, and video, among others), Vhils' works question the human condition in the era of megacities, the interdependence between people and their environment, the passage of time.
Together with the artist's aspiration to humanise the urban landscape, the current exhibition seeks to make us consider the present human condition in face of the entropic complexity of the city. "Realm" is thus both an analytical look at the characteristics of contemporary urban life and a humanist gesture highlighting the transformation of identity at the heart of this new chapter in human development.