by Rahul KumarAug 23, 2022
Grant Fuhst is an American artist who creates deeply unsettling digital mixed media art that seems to brim with a living, breathing sense of sadness and anger. Much of his oeuvre contains exaggerated faces with distorted features and mouths agape; all coming together within dingy, cramped compositions that further oppress their already tortured subjects.
Fuhst is a self-taught artist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States. He discusses the early years of his creative journey: "I grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan, but have lived in Utah for most of my life and have been creating art since I was a child. My family was pretty blue-collar, so I had no exposure to the art world back then. All of my early influences were comic books, fantasy, and science fiction artists from the 1960s and 1970s such as Frank Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson and Moebius.” The artist’s childhood fascination for science fiction may have been abstracted over the years, however, much of his work feels well-grounded within the realm of dark fantasy. Fuhst also worked on the illustration for Mercedes by Mike Friedland, which is a comic series from the mid-90s that follows the adventures of the titular character; a woman who possesses the ability to see events from the past play out before her eyes, albeit at inopportune moments.
Of all the comic illustrators, Bernie Wrightson seems to have had a particularly lasting impact on the art that Fuhst produces, as echoes of the late American comics master’s scowling, heavily shadowed faces feature prominently within his work. Wrightson was instrumental in defining how monsters and other tenebrous creatures are portrayed in American art, and Fuhst too plays with depth and tone expertly within his compositions, creating an aura of mystery and danger that seemingly permeates through his entire body of work.
What might not be immediately apparent from a cursory exploration of Fuhst’s oeuvre is that he is a digital artist whose craft extends beyond the two-dimensional. A deeper dive into the artist’s practice reveals striking sculpture pieces that carry much the same qualities as his digital art. However, their ability to unsettle the viewer is only magnified by their three-dimensional nature, along with the artist’s vision that certain works—such as Gargoyle— present a complete, hybrid organism. This chimera, in particular, feels right at home in one of Zdzisław Beksiński’s or Dariusz Zawadzki’s nightmarish, post-apocalyptic hellscapes, almost as though it is a miniaturisation of the horrific beings that those visionary Polish painters were able to realise.
Fuhst explores the breadth of his craft, telling STIR, “I have worked in painting, drawing, and found-object sculpture over the span of my career, but my recent works are made using a mixed-media and digital approach that I developed about five years ago.” His process usually sees him begin by creating a drawing or painting, which he then scans and imports into a digital workspace before collaging with many layers of images from other paintings. After this, Fuhst adds textures to his composition, persisting until he arrives at a result that he is satisfied with. This process can end up creating works that are possessed with detail and meaning beyond the immediately apparent. “I like working this way because it is very intuitive and leaves much room for serendipitous events that improve the image,” he says.
Fuhst discusses the emotion within his practice, telling STIR, “These portraits are not of anyone in particular. They are meant to depict the human species as it actually is: desperate, angry and sad.” However, there is certainly a sense of humour of sorts to be found in some of his pieces. Take Celestial Sister and Creation Myth for example: the artist explains that the former pokes fun at astrology through its iconography, while the latter tells an inverted creation story, complete with accurate depictions of prehistoric animals.
Organised faith is a target of lampooning for the illustrator. Nonetheless, certain mythical archetypes find their way into his work as they are powerful images, born of the collective unconscious.
Despite much of his work being digital, Fuhst has little desire to engage with the growing NFT space. He tells STIR that he believes "the 80 per cent of NFTs are involved in criminal activity or scams, particularly targeting poor, starving artists.” He goes on to explain that he is constantly bombarded on social media with dubious invitations to enter the space, and considers NFTs and cryptocurrency in general to be a symptom of the “disease of capitalism”. The artist continues, saying, “Everyone is trying to get rich quick at any cost. My artistic journey is my focus, not how rich I can get. Obviously if I wanted to get rich, I would not have focused on art.”
Fuhst’s darkly surreal portrayals of human nature have been shown at several exhibitions, most recently at a local museum’s yearly Spring Salon, which brings together works of several artists from across the state of Utah. He is also looking to broaden the mediums he works in and looks forward to taking up printmaking. “I am interested in exploring new techniques and stylistic directions. I have always wanted to get into etchings, and hope to have the opportunity to take a workshop sometime soon.” We can likely expect more intriguing work coming from Fuhst in the near future, which enjoyers of the dark and macabre will await with eager anticipation.