Aspex Portsmouth

Week 7, Maggie Roberts, 40 Stories

Joanne Bushnell, Director

This week I’ve been reflecting on all of the extraordinary women I’ve had the good fortune to work with at Aspex over the last twenty plus years, including much loved trustees, colleagues, volunteers, peers and of course, artists. I won’t list them all, they know who they are, but I do want to single out one inspirational woman for this week’s story with whom I have worked relatively recently.

Maggie Roberts was selected for inclusion in the eighth iteration of our long running Emergency open submission biennial exhibition in 2017. I met Maggie only briefly during the installation and late at the preview of the show where she was awarded the prize of a solo exhibition. Curators so frequently save money on exhibition installs by putting up artists in their own homes. Now I have a child, I rarely do this, but I made an exception for Maggie. Although I barely knew her I was impressed by her ideas, enthusiasm and kind energy and wanted to spend more time getting to know her, so she came to stay with us on and off for a fortnight.

I want to talk about the experience of working with Maggie because it is the joy of connecting with someone creatively, the collaborative process between curator and artist which makes working in a gallery such a delight. Emergency in particular is about offering artists a platform and for those that win the prize, an exhibition which can be used to develop and push forward their practice. Maggie Roberts is not an inexperienced artist by any means, but she is perhaps best known for her collaborative practice as co-founder of collective orphan Drift. Her exhibition Uncanny Valley, Difficult Kin in 2019 provided her with a solo space to present stunning, intelligent and provocative new works which explore the distributed consciousness of octopuses.

It was a privilege to have time to work closely with Maggie Roberts, and I celebrate her as someone who is generous to the women with whom she collaborates and shares ideas. This year she has released a series of guided meditations Becoming Octopus, which further explores the potential for human and cephalopod connection and such a pleasure to experience within the confines of our homes.