Charlotte Mei explores fantasy and mythology in Now Gallery show

Known for her work with brands including Nike and Hermès, in her latest project the artist and illustrator imagines a modern-day fairytale complete with chainmail underwear and a giant cat cuddly toy

London’s Now Gallery is well-known for championing emerging creative talent, having previously commissioned artists including Joy Yamusangie and Manjit Thapp. British-Chinese artist and illustrator Charlotte Mei is the latest creative to join their ranks as part of the gallery’s tenth anniversary programme in 2024.

In recent years, Mei’s hugely popular illustrations have been commissioned by brands such as Hermès, Nike, Rimowa and Beams Japan, while her artworks have been exhibited in cities all over the world.

The artist’s latest project sees her transform Now Gallery into an otherworldly realm that draws on her lifelong love of the fantasy genre. “I wanted to create a project that felt really authentic to me and create a story that I would want to experience as a visitor,” she tells CR.

“I have been obsessed with fantasy stories, films, literature, anime, and art for as long as I can remember. Dipping into that pallet felt like a natural starting point. I wanted to create a fantasy world because I want to live in one. I want to find an enchanted sword and lie in a meadow of sparkling flowers surrounded by magical creatures.”

Large-scale, multi-canvas paintings in Mei’s signature pastoral style provide the expansive backdrop to the show, while display cases filled with ‘excavated’ artefacts such as chainmail underwear aim to subvert the historically male dominated iconography of the fantasy genre.

Working in mixed media is something that Mei says comes naturally to her. “Some ideas are expressed best in a painting, some in textile, some in clay. The gallery space is expansive and was calling out for large artworks. I’ve been experimenting with making cuddly toys and couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to make a giant one … so we made a three-metre tall plushy cat.

While she’s thoroughly enjoyed the process of putting together the show, it’s also emphasised the clear distinctions between her approach to personal versus commercial work. “I approach working to a brief like a challenge, how to convey both my message and yours. It’s energising and fun,” she says.

“Personal projects like Like a Melody come from the heart. When I start working on a piece I often don’t really know where it’s going, I let the process lead the outcome.”

Like a Melody: Myths, Memories, and Fantasy is at Now Gallery until June 2;