Introducing Conscious Coupling: A Writing Residency & Zine From The Double Negative & The Royal Standard


We’re all loved up! Ahead of it’s publication launch tomorrow night, we reflect on a special series of conversations that have taken place this year between artists and writers; leading to substantial collaborations and long-term friendships…

This year, we piloted a writing residency with The Royal Standard Studios. Why? We wanted to do more to support artistic talent and career development, and we wanted to do it our way.

Inviting TDN writers and TRS artists to meet in the Everton-based art studios on a cold January afternoon, we aimed to shape what this residency could look like. We had tea and cake, talked, and had a tour of the work spaces. Some of the artists were there in person to introduce their films, sculptures, drawings, paintings; some left video messages and funny notes for the writers. For some, it was the first time they’d ever really been welcomed into and received such a thorough introduction to an artist-led studios. People were excited about those that they’d met and how much they had in common. As writer Lara Eggleton noted: “The open studios was a unique and valuable experience for both artists and writers, where all got a chance to share their ideas and practices and identify genuine overlaps of interest.”

“It’s not often a writer is granted such time and access to an artists work-in-progress”

It emerged that some writers had never had more than a 40 minute conversation with an artist, and vice versa; it was typically rare to sit down and talk outside of the journalist/interview format. Indeed, it was hoped that a new type of relationship could develop outside of the boundary of the gallery and the critical review, and one that would help to contextualise new or unfinished work — rarely represented in arts press or publications.

As another arts writer, Jade French, put it: “It’s not often a writer is granted such time and access to an artists work-in-progress.”


So it was important that all of these things were pulled into one support system. Almost like a dating service, we decided to match four pairs who would meet regularly to talk, with the aim of producing some new writing that could be published. It was obvious that something special could happen if these artists and writers were given the space, time and encouragement (and some funding)  to collaborate. French and the other attendees of that great first day wrote to us – Ellie Barrett (ex-Director, TRS) and Laura Robertson (Editor/Co-founder, TDN) – about each other, naming who they’d like to be partnered with. We selected “couples” Tom Emery and James Harper, Eggleton and Laurence Payot, French and Becky Peach, and Grace Harrison and Jack Welsh.

“What we all appreciated about this pilot was an opportunity for frank and in-depth conversation”

The chosen writers were invited back into the studio and the making process; observing as well as sharing feedback, debate and provocations with the artist. This dialogue played out over a course of several recorded conversations within a four month period. Both participants had a voice, and contributed creatively to the outcome of this relationship and the eventual zine, entitled Concious Coupling (pictured; with thanks to Eggleton for the name, and a tongue-in-cheek reference to the celebrity romance of Gwyneth and Chris to boot) which we’re launching tomorrow night. Developed with artist/designer Mark Simmonds, its contents includes stories about the art of playing, curating by accident, and symbiosis; plus sketches from the studio and original artwork made in collaboration.


On reflection, what we all appreciated about this pilot was an opportunity for frank and in-depth conversation; for sharing ideas, anxieties and challenges; and fostering relationships that had the potential to grow into long-term friendships.

Artist Peach found that the residency cultivated a deeper understanding of her own work. ”It was a really positive and useful experience. It’s always great to understand your practice from another’s perspective. Jade was able to assimilate themes in my practice that I was finding challenging to articulate.”

“Our joint contribution to the zine was a new way of working for me; a process I really took a lot from”

Artist Payot has found that the pilot residency has even led to further discussions and events with Eggleton outside of TDN and TRS. “Talking to Lara and putting abstract thoughts into words was like dissecting my practice in ways I never did before”, Payot said. “It opened doors which I didn’t know existed, and in turn this will transform the way I work. As a result of this residency, we are continuing to collaborate with a discussion at Liverpool’s Tate Exchange“.


Crucially, writer and artist Welsh found that extending beyond a simple question/answer exchange led to new brand work being made between him and his partner Harrison, which is featured for the first time in the publication. ”Collaborating with Grace was a great and pleasurable opportunity to challenge the development of my own work and interrogate conceptual concerns in greater depth. Our joint contribution to the zine was a new way of working for me; a process I really took a lot from.”

So here it is: Concious Coupling. A residency and its accompanying zine controlled entirely by the artist and writer duos featured. This publication is just one part of the result; the rest belongs to the experiences and memories of each artist and writer and, we hope, will manifest in a sustained and evolving critical and supportive dialogue in the years to come.

Laura Robertson, Editor

With sincere thanks to Arts Council England, without whom this trial residency would not have been possible, and to Mark Simmonds for the design

Get your hands on a copy of Conscious Coupling: which will be launched tomorrow evening, Friday 16 December, 6pm til late, at the new Royal Standard gallery & studios at Northern Lights, the Baltic Triangle, Liverpool. The launch will coincide with the fundraising event Storage Hunters: The Royal Standard Christmas Edition — a special seasonal party and auction of artworks — £4 early bird /£5 OTD. Tickets include drink on arrival!

Don’t miss your chance to get a tour of the new TRS building: open studios event Saturday and Sunday 12–3pm — FREE!

Posted on 15/12/2016 by thedoublenegative