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Patrick Langley

MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, 2013

Patrick Langley graduated from Critical Writing in Art & Design in 2013. Since graduating Patrick has carved out a career as a writer, contributing pieces to publications including Frieze, art agenda and Art Review. Currently an assistant editor at art agenda and a contributing editor at The White Review, Patrick will publish his first novel, Arkady, in March 2018.

What were you doing before you started studying at the RCA?

I graduated from a BA in English Literature in 2008: perfect timing for a global recession to hit the job market. Since finding a ‘real job’ looked difficult, if not impossible, I started working as a freelancer almost by default. Mostly I worked in radio, researching and producing arts documentaries for the BBC, often about subjects I didn’t know a thing about. I interned at The Sunday Times for a few months, more than long enough to know that I would never be a News Corp journalist. Meanwhile I was writing book reviews, articles and short stories for various magazines – all of it terribly paid. I wanted to write for a living. I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen.

What attracted you to study on the Writing programme?

Art has always excited, moved, and frustrated me in ways that are hard to explain or quantify, and I wanted to understand why. I also placed faith in the vocational implications of the course. I thought that doing an MA would train me for a career in writing and editing for magazines and galleries. I also loved the idea of encouraging discussions between artists and writers. Some friends had just started The White Review, a magazine in which visual art and new writing sat side by side, and they had published some of my early pieces. I felt that the Writing programme might help me to me develop that side of things too, in the midst of an exciting institution.

What was the atmosphere like on the programme?

We were a sceptical bunch, but productively so, constantly scrutinising writers’ choices and intentions in order to figure out what they were trying to say. But that scepticism was grounded in the belief that writing was, to put it simply, important. I found that deeply affirming. Before I joined the programme, I was intensely reluctant to share my work in an open forum, to the extent that I seriously considered not going. To have my writing dissected by a roomful of people I barely knew was a frightening prospect, the stuff of anxiety nightmares. But then, when the course began, my peers found encouraging things to say about my work, while their criticisms were sharp and useful. In turn I was inspired by the intelligence and intensity of their work, which exposed me to subjects that I might not have encountered otherwise.

What have you done since graduating?

In March this year I’m publishing my first book, a novel called Arkady, with Fitzcarraldo Editions. The textures and rhythms of language were recurring topics of discussion in the Writing classes, which sharpened my sense of how I wanted to write, and what my ‘voice’ was. There are broader thematic connections, too. For my final-year thesis, I wrote about Silvertown, an industrial area of east London that Derek Jarman and Stanley Kubrick had transformed into smoky, ruinous film sets decades earlier. Parts of Arkady explore a similar terrain, albeit an imaginary version, twisted and tinted to suit the needs of the story.

What's your current role, and how do you think your time at the RCA on the Writing programme has supported your career?

Alongside fiction, I write art reviews and features. I’ve recently written for Frieze, The White Review, and The Brooklyn Rail, and recently joined art agenda as an assistant editor. The financial rewards of a writing career are slim, almost laughably so. You’re never sure when the invoice will be paid, when a piece will get accepted. All the same, it’s an immense privilege to be able to write, and my time at the RCA definitely helped me to achieve that goal, not just in developing my own abilities, but in familiarising me with the editing other people’s work. I also made some very good friends on the programme. We’re still in touch, still read each other.

Enjoyed this story? Discover more alumni stories here.

"It’s an immense privilege to be able to write, and my time at the RCA definitely helped me to achieve that goal."
Patrick Langley
Patrick Langley