Charlotte Mei – Like a Melody

Charlotte Mei is a British-Chinese artist and illustrator with a penchant for all things fantastical.

Spanning painting, ceramics, sculpture and animation, Mei’s oeuvre conveys a sense of boundless wonder and creativity. The artist’s playful style imbues the works with a distinctive verve and lively immediacy, leaving you longing for more.

A graduate of the University of the Arts, London, Mei has collaborated with brands such as Hermès, Nike, Ferragamo, and The New York Times, exhibited in London, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo, and run creative workshops for institutions including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Soho House.

Running until June 2nd, Like a Melody: Myths, Memories, and Fantasy is Charlotte Mei’s new solo exhibition at NOW Gallery, London. While addressing themes of selfhood and identity, the show draws upon fantasy fiction, mythology and anime to reflect on how imagination can provide an escape, though temporary, from the hardship of the real world.

Bringing together large-scale, multi-canvas paintings, sculptures and larger-than-life figurines, Like a Melody offers the viewer an immersive journey through the artist’s ethereal, whimsical world. A world of fairytale enchantment and adventure reimagined from a female viewpoint.

The exhibition at NOW Gallery follows the success of Mei’s Pipette and Dudley’s Charming Dog Adventure (2020), a 98-page comic book about a teenage princess slash micro influencer and her sidekick dog, and a 40-page Lord Of The Rings magazine featuring paintings, drawings and features inspired by Tolkien’s iconic fantasy epic saga, released in 2019 with fellow illustrator Chris Harnan.

1883 Arts Editor caught up with Charlotte Mei to chat about her art, inspirations and creative process.

Installation View, Charlotte Mei – Like a Melody, until 2nd June, NOW Gallery, London. Photo: Charles Emerson

Hello Charlotte, thank you for finding time to answer our questions. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background as an artist and illustrator?

I am someone who has only wanted to draw and paint for as long as I can remember. All my earliest memories are around painting, doodling on my mum’s belongings, playing with pastry dough but wanting to make it into animal models instead. Copying my favourite anime characters off the TV. I studied illustration at Camberwell, shortly after finding out what illustration was. Between then and now, I worked hard trying to make a life out of the only thing I’m good at! I borrowed a £10k loan from the bank and crossed everything it would pay off.

Who would you say are your main artistic influences?

I would say my main influences are not so much specific people or artists, although there are many I admire. My inspiration comes from more diffuse sources, and are usually things that make me feel emotional, be it the view from a window, an overheard comment, a piece of packaging, a blossoming tree, etc.

Installation View, Charlotte Mei – Like a Melody, until 2nd June, NOW Gallery, London. Photo: Charles Emerson

How does your fine-art work inform your commercial endeavours – and vice versa?

The line between personal and commercial work and the question of what is authentic is something that I’ve always been conscious of. When I am creating artwork it all come from the same place, but the process looks different, and of course the context is different. I always try to tap into something authentic whether I am making personal or collaborative work, and myself that honesty and sincerity speak to people in a way that any kind of strategy or algorithmically designed approach probably won’t.

Tell us about your solo exhibition at NOW Gallery, Like a Melody.

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 when I started making artworks for Like a Melody I wanted to create a fantasy world because I want to live in one. This took the form of giant toys, fantasy swords and enchanted environments, artworks I have dreamt of making since childhood.

Installation View, Charlotte Mei – Like a Melody, until 2nd June, NOW Gallery, London. Photo: Charles Emerson

What themes and ideas does the show explore?

The themes I have been exploring in Like A Melody include toughness, weakness, sweetness and grief. I would say most of the artworks have an emotional quality, but also a vagueness. I wanted to create a space for the viewer to have a personal relationship with my work.

Can you talk us through the creative process behind the work on display?

I make a lot of paintings and many versions of the same one. This is narrowed down as I start to feel like some things are hitting the mark… I always start lots and lots of artworks at the same time, that’s just how my brain works!

What does the future hold in store for you?

I have no idea! Something good I hope.

Like a Melody: Myths, Memories, and Fantasy runs until 2nd June at NOW Gallery, London.

Further information about the exhibition can be found at nowgallery.co.uk

Learn more about Charlotte Mei at charlottemei.com

Interview Jacopo Nuvolari

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