Various venues, Leicester, UK


UK Young Artists Festival 2014 exhibited the UK’s most innovative upcoming young artists at 10 venues across Leicester. Visual arts, performance, moving image, music, spoken word, dance, arts workshops and artist talks; for one weekend only UKYA inspired and entertained many.

Words © Mel Fletcher - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Exhibited downstairs of Silver Arcade was the impressive Cove by Alexander Duncan, a huge collection of “seafoam” gathered over a period of years at beaches in Swansea, Wales. 

The boulder-like polystyrene materials have been naturally discoloured and shaped by the sea, making them look as if they are organic forms. The fact that these materials were once irresponsibly thrown away and then transformed into unique, natural-looking objects just shows how powerful the elements of nature really are. What is more, exhibited within a primarily glass walled room brings surprise to passersby with the illusion that these materials will cause destruction to a man made room when in reality, it is the man made materials that are causing the real damage to our natural world.

© UK Young Artists Festival

Floors above Duncan’s work in Silver Arcade was Toposcope exhibition featuring artworks that travel down a beautifully lit corridor, one of which was David Langham’s Fragments. Langham’s series consists of cropped images of natural scenes that represent fragments of an experience by discarding the irrelevant visual information and targeting the main point of interest. One tree, a waterfall, cliff rubble; the images are almost floating in a non-existential space. Intimately sized and framed, the artwork invites the viewer to get in close for analysis and contemplation.


Next to Langham’s work was a short film called The Individual’s Pursuit by artist Sandra Fruebing. The film consists of the artist attempting to travel in between spaces such as walking on water and ground at the same time or walking down a road whilst walking on the heightened curb. As near impossible and puzzling as these tasks seem, Fruebing documents this film as if she were training towards an ultimate goal.


One artwork that stole the show in Vacant Lot exhibition at Embrace Arts was illustrative drawing Tortue Geniale by artist Olivier Marc Thomas Leger. Beautifully detailed Turtles, Manta Rays, Orca, Blue Whales, Eels; all flowing in a world of intricate trees and swirls – Leger’s work creates a fantastical world of animals that plays with scale in the most attentive way. One cannot help but gaze upon the turtle as some sort of animal-spirit/god and be overwhelmed with a feeling of ethereality.


Keeping to the theme of animals, this artist shared stories that gave animals a humorous and human face. Jo Kelen’s Animal Antics was a spoken word performance at New Walk Museum of fables – in some cases themed around an uncool duck and a larger than life elephant becoming the least likely of friends and a tomato with an identity crisis (noted that a tomato isn’t actually an animal, but the poem was brilliant).

Also performed at New Walk Museum was artist Katherine Hall with her performance Fill in the _____. Hall’s performance based on time and its associations and representations featured much audience inclusion with graphs, annotations, group exercises and diagrams. With a clinical setting of all white kitchen appliances and egg timers ticking away, part of Hall’s performance was spoken in German, perhaps playing on German stereotypes of efficiency or even fitting within the surroundings of German Expressionist art in New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. Not so fun as this seems, Hall’s performance was both funny and absurd in its actions and analysis – which was quite frankly a waste of time, but time worth wasted!

The extraordinary performances at UK Young Artists festival didn’t stop there. Joe Snape performed a completely unique hybrid of performance, music and installation at DMU’s PACE building titled Larmlicht #5. Snape played a composition of electric music using a synthesizer of sounds collected and sampled over many years – some of which being recorded sounds of circuit boards and live wires. Performed live in complete darkness the music shares a language with an apparatus of bulbs positioned around the artist, flickering and corresponding in time. - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Cove by Alexander Duncan - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Fragments by David Langham © the artist - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Tortue Geniale by Olivier Leger - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Located in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter, Two Queens Gallery featured some of the UK’s best upcoming, young artists for UKYA festival. One of which was Leonie Brandner with her intimate sculptures titled Palms. Brandner’s sculptures are handmade ceramics literally crafted by gently pressing clay between both palms of the artist’s hands. Organic as they seem, these tactile and beautifully minimal sculptures were positioned in a highly considered manner, leading in a straight line to the rest of the exhibition like being led down a garden path. Brandner describes Palms as “bodily memory in a minimalist object”.


After following Brandner’s piece around the separating wall of the gallery, spectators are instantly drawn theBeth Shapeero’s Peerless Pools. Seductive surfaces like that of Crème Brûlée and wet icing, one cannot help but get the urge to dive into or at least prod at the illusive semi hardened vats of liquid. Shapeero named the pieces Peerless Pools after Britain’s first lido.

Also exhibited at Two Queens Gallery was moving image Stay Tuned by welsh artist Maria Abbott. Using the absurdity of product commercials or infomercials (if you are American), Abbott advertises bizarre and humorous inventions that help enhance women’s figures. Abbott’s fake commercials highlight the western worlds unobtainable vision and ideal of beauty.

Performance Fill in the _____ by Katherine Hall / image © Odette Ziemelis​ - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Larmlicht #5 by Joe Snape - Mel Fletcher - UKYA

Peerless Pools by Beth Shapeero​


Article written by Mel Fletcher

Text © Mel Fletcher 2014

Commissioned by UK Young Artists Festival 2014

Images © UK Young Artists Festival and artists featured