Corbin Shaw

Corbin Shaw

exhibition dates:
15 May
26 May

Incubator 24 is proud to present Little Dark Age, a portrait of post-Industrial Britain by Corbin Shaw.

In an 1877 lecture, William Morris famously uttered the words, “I do not want art for a few”. The English arts and crafts pioneer concluded that same speech with a dream; that in “no private dwelling will there be any signs of waste, pomp, or insolence, and every man will have his share of the best.” Corbin Shaw thinks that we are living in William Morris’s nightmare. Transporting us forward in time, the Sheffield-born artist imagines Incubator as a ruin of a British new build, where cheap plastic goods made overseas and markers of taste and wealth have aged into relics of obsolescence. Drawing upon capitalist iconography, ancient histories, folk song, TikTok and the melancholia of modern youth, Shaw holds up a startling mirror up to mass consumerism in post-industrial Britain, furiously calling for us to wake up.

Shaped by his youth in a south Yorkshire ex-mining town – where Amazon and Pretty Little Thing factories have replaced the industry of coal – Shaw’s practice investigates personal and national ideas of identity. After graduating from Central Saint Martins, the artist became known for his subversive St George’s cross textiles, though he has expanded into other mediums since. For his Incubator show, Shaw proposes craft as an antidote to the conglomerate churn of consumerism, instead working in embroidery, wax rubbing, ceramic and brass casts. Fusing ancient practices with signposts of our times, stones found on the banks of the Thames are chiselled with Amazon arrows and phrases like ‘imported‘; ceramics of homely affection are vandalised with Carlsberg and Guinness emblems; and car logos appear among antique horse brasses, the workhorse replaced by the delivery van.

Gazing into the past while imagining the future, Shaw explores the notion of ‘ad-hocism’, where once objects lose their functional purpose they can become something new. In the entombed setting of his ‘new build ruin’, concrete casts of Wifi-routers become objects of future domestic decoration, while a dislocated transit van door sets the backdrop to an elegiac video work. With these works, Shaw undermines the social value we ascribe to objects, while asking important questions about the things we produce and where they end up.

While much of the exhibition presents a dystopian portrait of today, a series of four liminal tapestries tenderly commemorate places where the artist spent much of his youth; service stations, shopping centres and underpasses. With these works, Shaw looks to human connection amid a changing landscape of Britain. Like the makers of the arts and crafts movement, Shaw honours the tactile traditions of craft while optimistically hoping for renewal. During the exhibition’s making, the artist was thinking about The Lark Ascending, a wordless 1919 composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams that some believe should replace the national anthem. Rather than exalting royal figureheads, it celebrates the pastoral beauty of the countryside, making space for a fantasy England that is open to interpretation – an England for everyone.

Through beautiful and brash work, Shaw needles at our society while warmly honouring his northern identity and the folk rituals of English history. His work bravely asks what it means to be British today.

curated by Angelica Jopling

exhibition text by Orla Brennan

Corbin Shaw (b.1998) is a British artist based in Bethnal Green, East London. Originally from Sheffield, Corbin explores ideas of masculinity through the medium of textiles. Best known for his unique take on the St George's cross.

Using his upbringing in a South Yorkshire ex-mining town Corbin investigate's masculinity and how that was defined to him growing up. Breaking stigmas and stereotypes through his re-imagination of masculine 'icons' and objects. The artist pays homage to the people and places that have shaped his northern identity – the pub, football pitches and boxing gyms.

Corbin Shaw presented his third solo show at the end of 2023, The People fled When The Sun Went Down, Jealous Gallery, London, where he shredded and pulped stolen copies of the sun newspaper to create paper to display 22 original screen prints. Zooming out to expose a long-running culture of hypocrisy in a series of works that turn the newspaper’s own headlines against it. In 2022 Corbin showed Nowt as Queer as Folk, Guts Gallery, London, where he explored Folk Law and the traditions rooted in his South Yorkshire Village. Also in 2022 Corbin showed 'Martin Parr & Corbin Shaw' at OOF Gallery in London, where his work was shown in collaboration with legendary British artist Martin Parr to pay a homage to the Football Fan. Corbin has exhibited at the design Museum as part of 'Designing the Beautiful Game' and last year showed at Tottenham's OOF gallery as part of 'The world of Gazza!!' alongside artists Jeremy Deller, Douglas Gordon, Lydia Blakeley and many more.

Corbin’s artwork rose to particular prominence after collaborations with the likes of Women’s Aid, and W1 Curates, and cover’s for EXIT, Circle Zero Eight and Perfect Magazine as well as features in The Face, Dazed and The Guardian.