Aspex Portsmouth

Week 22, Explore, 40 Stories

“It was a magical process of showing each artist the interesting places in the city and supporting them through a creative dialogue, evolving into a new work.” – Oliver Sumner

Between 2006-2008, during the period of closure after leaving Brougham Road and launching at our new site at Gunwharf Quay, Explore was an adventurous off-site programme of commissions, residencies, events and participation projects led by curator Oliver Sumner.  We’ve invited Oliver to reflect on the experience. – Joanne Bushnell, Director

It was about introducing the new Aspex to as many different parts of the Portsmouth community as possible. I remember being quite conscious of just, who is the Portsmouth community, and who is the audience that we are addressing? How do they expect to see art? Is there a difference between what’s on the seafront and really getting into the interior of this island? There is quite a range of backgrounds across different neighbourhoods, and class, or people that just work here as opposed to local residents. Or young and old. That’s quite a lot to have in mind when you are also programming artists. 

At the same time we were trying to research artists that would really respond, and the joy of that process for me was in bringing artists to Portsmouth for the first time and showing them around, not quite knowing what they were going to gravitate towards. Also uncovering the weirdness of Portsmouth, in the nicest possible way, the things that really are quite distinct and different about the City. The way that there are so many kinds of architecture and heritage all kind of crossing each other. Lots of Portsmouth landmarks seem to also be about a new start for the future, optimistic visions from different eras: the hovercraft, Clarence Pier, the Central Library, or even the Spinnaker Tower, and previously the Tricorn Centre. There is something endearing about Portsmouth’s continuing history of utopian plans that eventually get overlaid with something else.

We learned you have to keep it open-ended to some extent. Trust the artist to surprise you with their response, just as you were enchanted by their work in the first place. It’s vital to remain open and responsive to the surrounding community, the city, its places and history.

The Explore programme and curatorial internships were supported by Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Arts Council England.

Seaside Sheep Show: Charlie Murphy, June 2006

Such a hot day on the common. A cross between a country show and a traditional trip to the seaside including a Fanciest Crook competition.

Mr Tack: Kier Eyles, September 2006 (performance on Commercial Road)

Carbon Coastlines: Anna Lucas, October 2006 

Panoramic drawing project for the Big Draw with students of St Vincent College and Portsmouth Grammar School at the Spinnaker Tower.

Health & Beauty: Rosemary Shirley, October 2006 

Participatory project with young women at the Brook Club, Portsmouth Youth Service.

Canvas Cinema: Alex Pearl, November 2006 (mobile cinema on Palmerston Road)

Woollenmaiden: Olof Bjornsdottir, December 2006  

Performance rooted in Icelandic folklore, which attracted a lot of attention as the artist mingled with the crowds at Gunwharf Quays.

Hunt and Hide: Anna Lucas, 2006/07

During her residency in Portsmouth, organised with the Spinnaker Tower,  Anna Lucas made a meditation on the desire to capture distant objects close-up, following her local encounters with an astronomer, birdwatcher and naval photographers. The work was screened at the Square Tower, Portsmouth and at Curzon Soho Cinema, London.

Public wallpaper: Federico Herrero, Spring 2007 

Curatorial intern Rose Lejeune commissioned the Costa Rican artist to create a wallpaper temporary covering for the Norrish Central Library in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square.

Art and Architecture: Eduardo Navarro, Spring 2007

Invited to Portsmouth for ten weeks, the Argentinain artist explored a dialogue between sculpture and architecture in partnership with the University of Portsmouth. This project resulted in the installation of washing machines at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Southsea, creating a space for social interaction. He went on to continue his residency in London and showed at Balin House Projects.

The Spirit of Gosport: Lisa Cheung, 2007

The artist’s residency led to the creation of a ‘radio play’ for the Gosport Ferry, revealing stories collected from its community including passengers, crew and staff (past and present), performed by members of the Gosport Amateur Operatic Society.

Castles and Ships: Barby Asante, 2007

A six-week participatory project with young migrants to the city held at Southsea Castle.

A LOT MENT: curated by Alexandra Lockett, Sept 2007

A large group exhibition/event on Milton Piece, Eastney Late, Hope Cottage and Longmeadows allotments, curated by our second Explore curatorial intern.

Ruins, Monuments & Follies: Nils Norman, 31 May – 20 July 2008

Project comprising an exhibition at Aspex and offsite elements, including a new pedestrian entrance to Gunwharf Quays and public information posters in bus shelters.

One thing Against Another: Sam Basu, Eduardo Padilha, David Kefford, James Ireland and Alice Walton, 2 August – 21 September 2008

Gallery exhibition and offsite installations by Sam Basu in the guinea pig enclosure at Victoria Park; Eduardo Padilha in the Central Library; and David Kefford in the Butterfly House of Cumberland House Museum.