Corbin Shaw, an artist currently studying at Central Saint Martins in London, grew up like many boys in the UK. “There wasn’t really much to do around our neck of the woods, but my dad would take me to watch our local football team Sheffield United on the weekend, and I would box in the week,” he tells us, describing the environments he grew up in as “heteronormative”. Today, he draws on that upbringing within his work, documenting pubs, football grounds, boxing gyms and welding firms in an attempt to understand his own idea of masculinity and what it means to others in those environments.
“I have always felt a sense of pressure from the hyper-masculine men around me to conform to the same unachievable, outdated standards of what they think a man should be,” Corbin elaborates. “My work looks at the rites of passage of manhood and the obstacles men force each other to conform to.”
Corbin first became interested in working as an artist after an art teacher urged him to attend Leeds College of Art after his A-Levels, from where he then progressed to CSM. However, when he first arrived in London, it proved an alienating experience, as so much of the art he saw felt like it was made for someone else. Until, that is, he encountered the works of Mark Leckey at Tate Britain. “Seeing these works changed everything for me, it felt as though the work addressed me and spoke to me in a visual language that I could understand,” he recalls. “Leckey really inspired me to make a lot of the art I make today.”
While Corbin’s works always begin as photographs or videos documenting typically masculine environments, the final outcomes can vary massively. It’s something which drew him to fine art over other creative media in the first place, as he is not bound by “one specific medium, or format”. To date, he’s produced flags, banners, scarves, desks, beer mats, coins, mugs and collages. These are objects chosen for their specific connotations and are inspired by his upbringing in Yorkshire – “a very proud county, you’re reminded where you are every day by a flag, monument, advertisement or a mining banner from the past” – but also by the remnants of folklore, myths and artworks like the Bayeux Tapestry.