Corbin Shaw is an iconoclast. Lauded for his explorations of masculinity through textiles and flags in particular, the East London artist catapulted into prominence in 2022 with compelling team-ups with Levis and Women’s Aid. Looking to his upbringing in a South Yorkshire ex-mining town, Shaw’s work subverts the various themes that define traditional British ‘lad’ culture and the idea of the ‘Englishman’, completely unraveling the deep-set stigmas that defined him in his adolescence. His satirical take hijacks stereotypes associated with gender, encouraging new conversations and paying homage to the people and places that have shaped his northern identity – the pub, football pitches and boxing gyms – in a bid to break down classism, masculinity and societal norms in Britain.
Now, on May 3 and 4, the Flannels X basement will be transformed into a heartwarming vision of a new generation; a playground for new creative collaboration in Shaw’s deft hand with an exhibition entitled For The Love of The Lads. Perpetually inspired by masculinity in British culture, Shaw navigates the theme through the lens of the boys of Aylesbury Grammar School, inviting a group of Year Eight students to interpret their personal reflections on masculinity. The result is an intimate and heartening tapestry of musings on masculinity, devised as a new, mutual series of signature Shaw flags. Illustrations by the students are sewn into the material mosaics with phrases such as “You’re as Rare and Shiny as Stevie G in 2003”, “Being Brave is Being Your True Self” and “Red and White Make Pink”, coming to the fore. For The Love of The Lads, augments Flannels‘ Oxford Street flagship store into an elusive, multimedia venue wrapped in eclectic textile artworks.
“It all came from my research into the use of union banners by miners in the 1970’s,” Shaw starts. “It struck me as an amazing example of a space where men felt able to talk about their feelings using flags as confessionals. We seemed to make sense of each other through making these flags – something that is crucial for the next generation of young adults.
“In a world where no one can keep up with the content being targeted at young men it is so important that they are given the space to contradict these stereotypes and to be given the opportunity to challenge what the media has taught them. I’d like to think that the project gave the boys some space to breathe and an opportunity to learn from one another’s vulnerabilities without feeling the need to be anything but open and supportive of one another.
“I would have such a sense of belonging and been so much less confused at their age if I had been given the chance to talk about my own masculinity and to learn that the rules I’d been taught so furiously weren’t in fact what I needed to be, or who I would end up being. So to offer this to the boys was such a privilege, they taught me so much about how to be fearless. For the love of those lads, for the love of Rachael and Lou. For the love of all the lads in the playground it’ll all make sense one day, promise.”
Produced in conjunction with British style, culture and sport magazine CircleZeroEight, the display is set to feature an image portfolio, a film by Aria Shahrokhshahi documenting the making of the artist’s work with a group of students, and a special panel discussion. Founder and editor-in-chief of CircleZeroEight, Elgar Johnson – also a member of the Flannels Creative Council (the alternative advisory board amplifying the retailer’s celebration of next-generation excellence) – comments: “Corbin’s work is provocative, intelligent and educational. He reminds me a bit of the YBAs (Young British Artists) in the 90s.”
Photography courtesy of Flannels. Corbin Shaw’s For The Love of The Lads will be on view for two days only next week, May 3 and 4, at Flannels Oxford Street. Discover the exhibition here.