Fucci Is The Toronto Artist Whose NSFW Illustrations Are Getting Gallery Attention

His bright renderings of nudes evade Instagram censorship.

December 19, 2016
Fucci Is The Toronto Artist Whose NSFW Illustrations Are Getting Gallery Attention Courtesy of Fucci

Fucci prefers his bright, sexually suggestive paintings to speak for him instead of doing interviews. When I met with the Finnish born, Canadian artist at Struck Contemporary in Toronto, he said he still freaks out at the sight of queues for his gallery shows, preferring to blend into the crowd under a baseball cap. And Fucci’s “contemporary cartoons” beg to be looked at: the bright pinks, blues, and yellows pull you in, but it’s his sensual depiction of women, contorted into pleading shapes that warrant a second look.

ADVERTISEMENT

The 25-year-old artist grew up in Elliot Lake, Ontario, a small mining town with a population of about 5,000. His dad painted and played guitar, and in his late teens Fucci toured as part of a hardcore punk band, Guttershark. Music wasn’t very lucrative and so eventually he turned his attention to graphic design, enrolling in a Masters program at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. And in 2014, while working in the corporate world, he began throwing drawings up on Instagram.

Two years later, Fucci is a full-time artist cranking out new pieces based on demand. “I’ve been conditioned to produce,” he said. This year alone he took part in 17 exhibitions; his shows are often well-attended, big budget parties. Currently, he has a solo show, Yes!, at The Viewing Room Gallery in Sheffield, U.K. and a group show, Prints On Wood, at Treason Gallery in Seattle. In January, Fucci will release a collaboration with luxury outerwear brand Moose Knuckle at trade shows in Paris and New York.

The FADER spoke with Fucci about his fascination with the female form, and the role of art galleries for digital artists.



'Protein' 2014

A photo posted by Fucci (@fucci) on

There are a lot of artists who put their work on Instagram; how would you say you were “discovered?”

I didn’t really get a lot of traction, I wasn’t promoting myself. Then I got hit up by this Adidas rep and ended up doing this Raf Simons x Adidas collaboration poster. Art blogs started picking up my work. I never expected this to become a career; it was just fun, creative drawings to use my hands again. I had a pretty extensive art education and felt bummed that I was always on a computer. I was doing corporate shit constantly, these soul-sucking campaigns that were paying a shit ton of money — but I was getting depressed.

When I came to your solo show at Struck Contemporary it seemed very established. A lot of the local artists I see don’t have gallery shows with free alcohol, for example. Where does that funding come from?

It’s usually alcohol sponsorships. I think the only corporate presence at a show that I’ve had was my “Art Rapture” Vancouver show and it wouldn’t have been possible for the curators without that sponsorship. It was such a large scale thing. Everything else is just kind of done through DIY gallery spaces and people taking a total risk on the artist.

Do you fund anything yourself?

All the time. All my print releases, all my paintings. I have management now but they don’t take care of that stuff. I cover all my costs, since day one.

“Before, a lot of people thought I was a woman artist and I think that says something. Sometimes you can tell when things are intentionally male, like, Let’s draw some fucking hot babes with big tits, you know?

A photo posted by Fucci (@fucci) on

How did you decide on your vibrant palette?

I think it comes from being a designer and playing with Pantone books and being so disciplined on color theory. Sometimes it’s not drawing the piece that takes the longest, it’s coloring. Sometimes I’ll recolor something for hours until I find the perfect color. Some people don’t like certain colors, I like all colors. I think all colors complement each other.

Your work has a focus on women’s bodies; I read that you learned to draw from pin-ups and comic books.

It was just more going through my dad’s drawings; he used to paint motorcycle tanks and hot rods so I saw a lot of that growing up. He’d always draw women so I got inspired by that. I read through a bunch of old Marvel stuff. I started reading porn comics online and getting a break down of the female body. It’s a lot calmer to draw than the male body. The male body is so rigid. [With women] there’s a lot more curvature, and it’s a lot nicer, aesthetically, to look at.

In this interview, you talked about a blog calling your work misogynistic and that they misunderstood because you want your work to empower women. What about your work is empowering to women?

Besides the fact that there’s clear nudity in the work, there are a lot of relatable situations. If you were to not look at it at face value, there’s a lot going on in the work. I did a piece called “The Lecture,” talking about your significant other wanting you to quit smoking. Some are about how guys are creepy; in “You Talk Too Much” this guy’s disgusting and she’s just like Get the fuck away from me. There’s one called “Prized Possession” where the woman is holding up a picture up of herself, she’s so proud of it. It’s pretty silly but there’s still darkness to it. There’s a lot of depression and sadness; if you look at the characters and how feeble they are. Bummed out in really bright places. I guess I kind of put myself in my art.

What is it about the way you paint nudity that you think is different and empowering?

That’s a hard question. I think it’s a lot more eye-catching in terms of the art. It’s bare, it’s carnal. It’s just your body, you know? In my work there are some pieces that are inherently dirty, I’m not going to front, but it’s the way we were made.

“I think galleries are actually becoming more prevalent because of social media, and the hype around art. Instagram is creating demand for some artists to show in actual brick-and-mortar spaces.”

Night Danger (2016) - Stay safe and enjoy your weekend!

A photo posted by Fucci (@fucci) on

I’ve noticed that all the women are faceless.

The faceless thing comes from the fact that I never enjoyed drawing faces. I felt I sucked at it and they’d always come out looking weird. I feel like also it makes it more relatable for anyone — if you put a face on a character that turns into someone familiar or maybe something completely unfamiliar. Having it faceless you can envision whatever you want out of it.

What are you saying about women’s bodies that’s different from what a woman can say about her own body?

That’s impossible to say as a man. I mean, I put myself in my art through the female body. It’s definitely my aesthetic; it’s something that I’ve been doing forever, it’s something I appreciate a lot. What am I doing fresher? There’s nothing I could do that a woman couldn’t. Before, a lot of people thought I was a woman artist and I think that says something. Sometimes you can tell when things are intentionally male, like, Let’s draw some fucking hot babes with big tits, you know? Everything about it is feminine; the situations, it’s softer, it’s sassy. It’s not just belligerently sexist and male-driven.

So much of your success is due to social media — what is the role of galleries now that people can build their own following and sell their art online?

I think it’s up to the artist. I’ve been so fortunate to be featured in brick-and-mortar spaces; some artists aren’t comfortable with that, or their medium is purely digital. I think it authenticates you, in a sense, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re an exhibiting artist. I think galleries are actually becoming more prevalent because of social media, and the hype around art. Instagram is creating demand for some artists to show in actual brick-and-mortar spaces.

A photo posted by Fucci (@fucci) on

ADVERTISEMENT
Fucci Is The Toronto Artist Whose NSFW Illustrations Are Getting Gallery Attention