Thursday, 22 November 2012

Art: Axisweb in Wales: Developing Critical Writing on the Contemporary Visual Arts 2012

In 2012 Axisweb in Wales ran Developing Critical Writing on the Contemporary Visual Arts - a programme for three aspiring writers in Wales. Jon Cronshaw catches up with the programme participants to find out more about it and ask them what's happened since they took part.

Entering the world of critical art writing can be a challenge for emerging writers. Between February and July 2012, Axisweb, supported by the Arts Council Wales and in partnership with ArtReview and This is Tomorrow, ran a programme of writing workshops and publication support for three emerging writers based in Wales.

The Critical Writing Programme consisted of writing workshops and professional mentoring by three established critics: JJ Charlesworth, Associate Editor of ArtReview; Cherry Smyth, who writes regularly for publication including Modern Painters, Art Monthly, and ArtReview; and Chris Sharratt, a freelance writer and editor.

“We wanted to develop a professional writing programme that took people away from an academic style, to one which engages a wider audience,” explains Project Coordinator Alicia Miller, “Bringing in professionals to give seminars and act as mentors is immensely valuable."

Three writers were selected in December 2011 to participate in this year’s project: artist Ciara Healy, filmmaker Rowan Lear, and artist Brychan Tudor.

They attended three half-day workshops which covered a range of subjects including: how to write for a specific audience; how to write to different guidelines and specifications, and conduct yourself as a professional writer; how to find your voice and style, and have the confidence to speak critically.

Ciara Healy’s review of Jonathan Anderson's exhibition ‘Coal Dust Mandala’ at Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen, was published by This is Tomorrow, and she has also had her work published in ArtReview.

“It’s completely changed my career, it’s fantastic!” Ciara says, “It has really given me confidence. I was always uncertain about writing poetically and critically and now I’ve developed my own style that I’m more confident about using. It’s my own voice that I finally feel as though I’m speaking in.”

Rowan Lear produced three pieces of writing which were published by This is Tomorrow, including a review of Zoe Leonard’s exhibition ‘Observation Point’ at Camden Arts Centre. Rowan saw the project as an extremely positive experience. "It gave me a real confidence boost with my writing. I learnt some really useful skills like how to write to guidelines and how to get work published.”

Brychan Tudor’s review of Singapore artist Zhao Renhui ‘The Institute of Critical Zoologists’ exhibition at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff featured on This is Tomorrow. "It was a chance to get a real feel the professionalism of writing. It wasn’t just meeting the writers - I also learnt a lot from the other participants.”

The experience was a positive one for all involved. Chris Sharratt, a mentor on the programme, was delighted that his advice and feedback proved useful. "I think you can sometimes take for granted the knowledge and experience you have acquired over the years, and working with writers who are still finding their feet is really rewarding.”

Cherry Smyth found that, “All the participants had particularly strong voices which made it very easy to identify their style and their interests. It really was a joy to do.”

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This article was originally published by axisweb.org, with a truncated version appearing in Axis Notes, 2012.

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