Vhils, who pioneered the Scratching the Surface series, comes to Asia

Portuguese artist Vhils, also known as Alexandre Farto (1987) has descended upon Asia’s shores.

His groundbreaking carving technique – which forms the basis of the Scratching the Surface series, has been hailed as one of the most compelling approaches to art created in the street in the last decade.

This video by Cultural Art platform Underdogs shows how Vhils pioneered the movement.


This is painting his largest mural to date in the port of Catania.

According to the artist’s statement: “The intention to depict human elements – a face gazing into the horizon – by weaving them into the fabric of the territory is an attempt to highlight this meaningful historical relationship between peoples, the sea and the land, but also to express something of the present-day reality at a time when Europe is witnessing a new humanitarian crisis, as a new wave of migrants and refugees arrive on its shores in search of safety, thus expressing the need for us to look into this situation.”

Commissioned by Fondazione Terzo Pilastro Italia e Mediterraneo and curated by 999contemporary for Emergence Festival 2015, Vhils was invited to create a piece that would cover a structure comprising eight grain silos in the port of Catania, in the Italian island of Sicily.

Purposefully facing the approach from the sea, this huge production (30.2 × 64 m) greets all ships and boats arriving or departing from the island’s main gateway. It highlights Sicily’s importance as one of the key crossroads and meeting points for the myriad cultures and civilisations that have left their imprint in the Mediterranean region throughout the centuries.

The large-scale mural is still in progress.

This is Vhils’ latest carving of this portrait in Butterworth, Malaysia, for the Urban Xchange Festival. 


Carved into the side elevation of the former Nan Fung Textiles Group cotton mill, this is the first in a series of large-scale mural interventions Vhils will be creating around Hong Kong over the next few months. The project is being developed in partnership with The Mills, the Mills Gallery and the HOCA Foundation.

According to Vhils: “The current portrait was inspired by research into the textile industry of Hong Kong and its workers,” with the purpose of helping preserve the memory and accentuate the importance of their contribution, often anonymous, to an industry that played a decisive role in developing the local material and human economy.


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