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Comparative Literature and Culture Art Writing Winners

We are pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 Comparative Literature and Culture Art Writing Competition.

Year 12 students entered the 2015 Art Writing Competition by writing a creative, critical or personal piece of up to 500 words about Sir Luke Fildes's Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward (1874) which hangs in Royal Holloway's Picture Gallery. The winning entrant, Shekinah Vera-Cruz from Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, Eastleigh receives £75 and a tour of the Royal Holloway Art Collections with the Curator Dr Laura MacCulloch.


First Prize Winner: 'Casual' by Shekinah Vera-Cruz

Judges were impressed by the originality and imaginativeness of Shekinah's prose poem which captures the artist's point of view whilst also asking important and timely questions about poverty and aesthetics.

Shekinah will receive a £75 prize, and a tour of Royal Holloway’s Picture Gallery with the Curator. Shekinah's prose poem is displayed below in full.

Well done to all who entered

Many congratulations from all of us in the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Royal Holloway, and from Royal Holloway’s Curator, Dr Laura McCulloch. 

Dr Giuliana Pieri, Head of the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures, said: "The critical, creative and writing skills displayed by entrants will doubtless serve them well in their current studies as well as on degree courses exploring arts and culture, such as our Comparative Literature and Culture and Modern Languages programmes. We wish all entrants the very best for the future."

How the entries were judged

LauraMacCulloch2The competition was judged by specialist academics and the Curator of the Art Collections, Dr Laura MacCulloch who particularly commended ‘the wonderfully different personal, creative and critical ways in which entrants engaged with this extraordinary painting’. 

Dr Ruth Cruickshank, Director of Comparative Literature and Culture who led the judging panel, commented: "We were all delighted by the extremely high standard. There was so much excellent writing, and the quality of entries was extremely high, and all encouraged us to think about this great painting differently. All entrants are to be commended, but after much deliberation, we agreed on a clear winner."

Winner - Shekinah Vera-Cruz from Barton Peveril College


The observer's paradox states that the nature of an occurrence changes by virtue of it being observed. That by looking, you inadvertently alter.

 Picture: sallow faces huddled in alleys.

Has something been lost? Has something been gained?

Or has something simply changed?

Imagine: a young man walks the streets, catches sight of the poor and thinks their suffering is art; for art doesn't have to be beautiful, it just has to make you feel.

Imagine: "Young ladies, please step to the right, your skirts are too bright for this scene."

And, "Dear, could you hunch? Gentlemen, step back, your hats are blocking the door."

Or, "That's it, turn towards the wall and sink to the ground. Use that cloth to hide your faces."

But it's fine. It's only a painting—they gain money from him, after all.

Perhaps: a desire for detail;

 "It won't take much of your time. Just leave the queue and come with me. I'll make it worth your while."

Then: "Sit as you had in the alley, angle your head so you gaze at the floor."

The observer, of course, gets to walk away.

The subject remains unchanged.

"There's a problem with the composition—Madam, clutch your child, hold his hand. Think poverty, think destitution. Someone move that dog; no, wait, leave it there. Lady, wait until the outline is done.

You in the middle, arch your back; think of long winters with no food."

Picture: "Yes! That's it! Now, stay as you are. No, wait, I want greater desperation. No, I mean, a little less agony and maybe a little more misery."

And something, somewhere, is lost.

Take part in our Art Writing Competition 2016

Details of the 2016 Royal Holloway Comparative Literature and Culture Art Writing Competition will be announced here.


Find out more 

To find out more about our innovative range of degrees that explore art and culture as well as literature and cinema from across the world, but all in English, visit our Comparative Literature and Culture pages. 

To discover more about how a degree in Modern Languages can include the study of literature, film, culture and visual art, visit the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures

You can find out more about the Royal Holloway Art Collections by visiting the Art Collection website.


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