The Olympic flame may have moved on, but one of the final events of the Cultural Olympiad is about to welcome another influx of driven, passionate young people from across the globe to our shores. More than 1,000 artists aged between 18 and 30 from 100 nations will descend next month on Nottingham for World Event Young Artists (Weya), a 10-day festival during which 30 venues across the city throw open their doors to everything from performance art to poetry, from journalism to sculpture, from theatre to music.
And just as Team GB did us proud, Weya will also offer a vibrant platform for home-grown talent – and the UK is certainly well-represented when it comes to photography. Many young graduate snappers will see their work going on display around the city, and we picked some of the most interesting images for a sneak preview on these pages.
They include shots by the likes of London Street Photography Student Awards finalist Richard Fish, 24, and winner, 23-year-old Tom Archer, who both display an eye for turning the urban mundane into something arresting or humorous, poignant or beautiful. Then there's Jim Cowan and Roshana Rubin-Mayhew, both of whom seek to reveal something intimate of their subjects by capturing them on film. Manchester-based Rubin-Mayhew, 25, explicitly searches for the "deeper self" in her series, I – while questioning whether photography, as a medium, can ever reveal it. Cowan, who is 23, is showing a project entitled L'Inconnu, after L'inconnue de la Seine – the unknown woman of the Seine, a girl found drowned in the Paris river, whose final expression was so serene the coroner ordered a cast of her face. The French became much enamoured of this death mask, which was hung on many an artist's wall – and for Cowan, it has inspired his photography in its suggestion of the moment of change, from life to death.
More cheerful are Liz West's images. A tutor at Glasgow School of Art once told her that every photographic slide should look "like a jewel" – and hers certainly shine brightly. This is serious colour-blocking: the 27-year-old contrasts different masses of uniformly hued objects in a supermarket to make an aesthetic experience out of a consumerist chore. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Emma Walker appears to be training her eye on the natural world, in a series of simple shots of flowers… but this is An Assemblage of Improbable Flowers, and each is, in fact, her own fantasy bloom, a careful construction, the false imitating the natural.
Weya has also recruited artist ambassadors, successful professionals to help young people get the most out of the festival. These include DJ Gilles Peterson, authors Ben Okri and Jon McGregor, and fashion designer Paul Smith. But perhaps most likely to light up our young photographers' lives is visual artist Hetain Patel, whose video/ performance work "Me and Me Dad and Me Wife" was at the Tate's new Tanks space this month. For Patel, a graduate in fine art from Nottingham Trent University, being invited to be an ambassador at Weya is a big deal, as well as something of a homecoming. Only a few years ago, he was one of the young artists exhibiting himself at an earlier incarnation of the festival, the Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, in southern Italy back in 2008. This time Patel, now 31 (and therefore "officially not young any more!") is in a supporting role, as "informal mentor" to young artists, as well as taking part in talks and events. k
"For the artists involved, at this early stage in their careers, the jumping to internationalism – having work exhibited and shown in an international context – is really important," he suggests. But the festival should also be good fun, he explains: "All the artists are actually there. You don't just engage with their work but also with them – formally, through talks, but also informally: you drink together and socialise."
Although Patel has not yet encountered our young cohort of British photographers, he has seen some of their work. "It's really great that these photographers have a platform," he says, "but also that they've brought such eclectic work." He is particularly enthused by West's saturated colour arrangements – "they're really visually beautiful works", but adds that, "I really like that [all] these artists are developing their practice and finding an outlet for their work."
For more information about Weya, which takes place in Nottingham from 7 to 16 September, visit worldeventyoungartists.com. For more about some of the UK's best young creative talents, visit ukyoungartists.co.uk