Dalston Loverboy takes over Greenwich


by Paul Johnathan

The Come Up,
Now Gallery, London,
until 11th February 2018.

When Charles Jeffrey moved from Glasgow to London to study fashion at Central Saint Martins, he soon ran out of cash, propelling him to start LOVERBOY, a club night in Dalston’s Vogue Fabrics, to pay his way through school.

I’ve never been to one of his nights in the East End, but stepping into the NOW Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula for his first exhibition, you can feel the music about to lift off the floorboards.

The Come Up, NOW Gallery’s third winter fashion commission, features giant abstract sculptures suspended from the seven-metre ceiling varying in size and material, all based on Jeffrey’s fashion illustrations.

As part of the installation, shelves are filled with mixed media materials and the public is invited to interact with the sculptures, to “open up their alter egos and let creativity take over”, by drawing their face onto the exhibits. The three-month long exhibition aims to create an interconnected patchwork of identities by inviting the public to complete the original sculptures.

Though The Come Up is his debut in the art world, Jeffrey has already brought an artistic disruption to London’s fashion scene. His SS18 show, Portrait of a LOVERBOY, invoked an Alice in Wonderland madness or Neverland-like escapism: a group of dancers emerged dressed in pink with light scribbling running all over their skin, bringing the dance floor to the catwalk, uniting his club night and fashion label. The show’s childhood playfulness and “club kid” aesthetic were accompanied with t-shirts featuring imagined newspaper headlines, such as ’CHILDREN HIGH ON DRINK AND DRUGS’.

The immersive experience of The Come Up succeeds in taking his artistic vision further. By inviting the audience to inform his work anew, he curates a three dimensional dialogue engaging visitors to actively participate in the art making process, becoming co-creators and disruptors in their own right at a time when inclusivity feels needed, in the art world and beyond.

How an alter ego will assist in this process is never acknowledged, nor how or if the exhibition is intended by definition to have such an effect on the public. What remains is the artistic intention of creating a safe space where everyone feels free to be the truest version of themselves.