Joanne Lee, Witches Knickers (2015), detail. Image courtesy the artist

Joanne Lee, Witches Knickers (2015), detail. Image courtesy the artist

Critical Writing

In March 2015 CVAN NW selected 25 emerging and mid-career writers from over 130 applicants to participate in a regional Critical Writing development programme. Writers were awarded a £300 bursary and given the opportunity to attend six practice and theory based workshops in exchange for writing and publishing two articles about contemporary visual arts in the North West.

Between March and May 2015 our cohort of writers travelled to universities, galleries, art centres and artist-led spaces in Preston, Manchester, Liverpool, and Barrow-in-Furness to take part in the workshop programme. While immersing themselves in the region’s visual arts offer, writers had the chance to debate the form and function of critical writing, to learn and take inspiration from our team of experts (Joanne Lee, Chris Sharratt, Bob Dickinson, Gerrie Van Noord, Sophia Crilly and Laura Robertson), and to refine their skills and knowledge in a number of key areas including editing, social media and self-publishing. Writers were also individually paired with a mentor to receive one-to-one support and editorial feedback.

In total, 24 short reviews and 16 features were published across a range of regional and national platforms: The Double Negative, Creative Tourist, Art in Liverpool, Redeye: The Photography Network, Corridor 8, The Skinny, a-n News, this is tomorrow, Axisweb, and Confront magazine.

In April 2016, CVAN NW commissioned The Double Negative to edit and publish a new book to celebrate the Critical Writing programme. On Being Curious: New Critical Writing on Contemporary Art From the North-West of England includes a selection of writing published as part of the programme alongside four new commissions by our team of writers. In addition, a number of new features and reviews have been commissioned for online publication on The Double Negative.

The programme forms part of ‘Art: Audience, Development, Discourse and Skills’ (Art: ADDS), a two year project that has invested in a number of development opportunities for artists, organisations and professionals in the region, developed audiences, and increased connectivity across the North West visual arts sector.


The following exhibition reviews have already been published online

“Completely committed to the development of young talent”: Introducing Liverpool Biennial’s Associate Artists Programme
Feature by Jack Welsh on The Double Negative

"Both tongue-in-cheek and trite": Joe Fletcher Orr / Mummy’s Boy
Review by Orla Foster on The Double Negative

It’s Time to Talk about Public Photography Commissions
Feature by Katrina Houghton on Redeye

Contemporary as Historical: Curating the Recent Past
Feature by Hannah Allan on This is Tomorrow

Art. What’s the use?
Feature by Lara Eggleton on Axisweb

Alternative Art Education: Islington Mill Art Academy – investigating what artists need
Feature by Sara Jaspan on a-n News

Preston Is My Paris: Reflections On Social Class In Art And Photography
Feature by Ruth White on The Double Negative

Feature by Abby Kearney self-published on the writer’s own blog

Why #writecritical?
Feature by Sue Flowers on Art in Liverpool

Why Do Galleries Exist?
Feature by Chris Fagan on The Double Negative

Reflexive Modernity — The Work Of Chris Paul Daniels
Feature by Amelia Crouch on The Double Negative

Assemble and Granby Four Streets CLT: A Fable for the Socially Engaged Arts
Feature by Laura Harris on This is Tomorrow

Art In Extraordinary Cumbrian Places: C-Art 2015
Review by Amy Thomas on The Double Negative

Enter Through the Gift Shop
Feature by Daniel McMillan on Confront

Interview: Nyaba Ouedraogo, The Phantoms of Congo River, Manchester Museum
By Naomi Cull on Corridor8

Turners, Constables & Lowrys: China Embraces Manchester’s Collections
Feature by Jon Bottomley on The Double Negative

Niamh O'Malley at the Bluecoat, Liverpool
Review by Kyle Brown on The Skinny

REALITY at the Walker Proves Painting is Still Relevant
Review by Alice Benbow on Art in Liverpool

Frightening with its familiarity: Shadow Worlds | Writer’s Rooms - Freud’s House
Review by Hannah Allan on The Double Negative

Why can’t great art happen here in Pennine Lancashire? Introducing: Super Slow Way
Feature by Jack Welsh on The Double Negative

Creating a Cultural Corridor
Editorial by Lauren Velvick on Corridor8

Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots and Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions
Review by Alice Benbow on The Double Negative

The Scammers Become The Scammed: I Must First Apologise…
Review by Orla Foster on The Double Negative

What Is Art School For?
Feature by Liz Mitchell on The Double Negative

So was it the Best, or the Worst of Times?
Review by Orla Foster on Art in Liverpool

LaunchPad: It Was A Dark And Stormy Night
Review by Naomi Cull on The Double Negative

Assassination, Space Travel & Regeneration: Modern History Vol. I
Review by Lara Eggleton on The Double Negative

Vibrating pads and gargling salt water: Lucy Beech’s Me And Mine
Review by Amelia Crouch on The Double Negative

Me and Mine, by Lucy Beech: Girls on film
Reviw by Lauren Velvick on Creative Tourist

Paint, Activated: Castlefield Gallery’s Real Painting
Review by Daniel McMillan on The Double Negative

Real Painting at Castlefield Gallery: Keeping pace with painting
Review by Sara Jaspan on Creative Tourist

Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots
Review by Laura Harris on Art in Liverpool

The Royal Standard Live! Take the time
Review by Chris Fagan on Creative Tourist

HOME’s first exhibition: The heart is warmed
Review by Jon Bottomley on Creative Tourist

A Small View of A Small Group of Idiots Ruining It for Everyone Else
Review by Kyle Brown on Art in Liverpool

Simeon Barclay: Jolly Lament in Four Movements Concerning A Hamlet By The Sea
Review by Jack Welsh on Art in Liverpool

Open 1 at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery
Review by Ruth White on Art in Liverpool

Desk Job at Open Eye: Photography that’s no job advert
Review by Abby Kearney on Creative Tourist

Free speech my arse: We Want People Who Can Draw
Review by Liz Mitchell on The Double Negative

Celebrating The Outsider: Helen Sear And Fred Shaw
Review by Ruth White on The Double Negative

A Green And Pleasant Land? Rural Reality Questioned At The Harris
Review by Sue Flowers on The Double Negative


One of the 25 Critical Writing programme places is sponsored by Redeye, The Photography Network and was awarded to Manchester based writer Katrina Houghton. Katrina’s review of Ed Atkins’ ‘Performance Capture’ at Manchester Art Gallery as part of Manchester International Festival was published on Redeye in July. Read more