Vhils – Scratching The Surface

Can we all just agree that the very best work at the Cans Festival was Vhils? That would make this whole thing a lot easier. Vhils completely surprised everybody there by literally taking a jackhammer to the walls of Leake Street. So then he released a couple of prints at Pictures on Walls which sold out instantly. They are beautiful and the bleaching technique is different from what anybody else is doing. Occasionally, there would be original work from Vhils available through Lazarides or at a gallery in Portugal. People loved his torn poster portraits and city-scapes. When Lazarides announced a Vhils solo show, it was cause for celebration. That show, “Scratching The Surface,” opened on July 3rd.

Vhils Laz

Now, I wasn’t in London for the opening, but I made sure to visit the gallery as soon as I got back in town.


The show includes a few different kinds of work from Vhils. First of all, there are his wonderful installation pieces that are carved into a temporary wall that has been installed in the gallery. These are probably his most iconic and identifiable works (check out this cool video of Vhils chiseling them). Then there are his almost as well known ripped poster portraits. These two styles take up more than half of the show. Although I like these works, there are just too many in this show.


The above piece was my favorite of Vhils’ ripped poster style, and I think it was one of only 2 of that style in the room it was in. Maybe it is a coincidence, but I think that maybe this style just doesn’t work well when you see a lot of them at once. They just don’t seem as well. I also like the drips on this one and the way it looks much more like a natural occurrence than some of the other paintings.

Then there were the pieces carved into wood.


They looked beautiful, and there were only a couple, so I’m still eager to see more. I think that’s the way to do it. Now I’m excited to see where Vhils takes this style in the future.

Another style I’m looking forward to more of are the pieces on metal.


They remind me of Vhils’ prints, and have a nice 3D look to them while, ironically, the actually 3d carving and ripped poster pieces look very 2d.

I think that the user “Irony” on the WallKandy forums sums up this show very well: “One of the few examples where the art in pictures looks better than the ‘live’ art. Although I see plenty of potential there (technique, variety of material used, skills), it just doesn’t work well in the gallery. Too clean and deliberate. And the mostly portrait theme of the show doesn’t help either. However one of the better artist out there.”

I like the portrait style, but would have liked to see more of Vhils’ cityscape pieces mixed in, and Vhils definitely has talent, I’m just not sure he quite compares to some of the other artists having solo shows at Lazarides just yet. After seeing the show, I suggested on twitter that maybe it could have been better as a two man show. Maybe I would be more excited about Vhils’ new work if there had been half as much, because then it would have been varied, and only the better half of this show would have been on display, and that better half is definitely worth checking out.

Although this post has been a bit critical of Vhils, I have to say that that some of my favorite new pieces of art for the past year have been Vhils’ prints, and I would urge people to check out his latest print release at Pictures on Walls, which is still available.

Photos from WallKandy