Aspex presents 'Double Dutch', from the late artist Ben Cove

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Aspex is proud to present Double Dutch, the recent work of the artist Ben Cove. It is with a mixture of sadness and celebration that we honour the promised exhibition that was programmed before Ben’s unexpected and untimely death from a short illness.

Working with Ben’s sister, Melanie, we are excited to present a new installation that Ben had planned with his usual meticulous attention to detail. We feel happy to have been able to realise his intentions.

Cove’s work explores the nature of painting and the object by installing paintings within large found images and sculptures. These investigate ideas of the constructed world, with reference to a broad range of influences, including 20th century modern architecture, art, design, museology and furniture, which Cove referred to looking at “out of the corner of my eye”.

The resulting works bring an innovative interpretation as Cove kept his influences at bay and challenged himself to work more and more intuitively. Cove’s choice of colour is celebratory and appealing and yet within this palette neon colours jar to invigorate the work. Structural shapes define areas, extended with wooden oak sculptures and reliefs that encourage the viewer to explore the work from all angles.

Melanie Cove said of her brother’s work: “Ben was an experimental artist who explored video, installation, sculpture and drawing but could not resist returning again and again to paint. His inquisitive nature pushed him to re-approach painting at different points in his career bringing an exciting freshness to his practice. His recent works, shown here, sing with a joy of colour and form whilst playing with depth and surface. The elegance of the final paintings, however, conceals radical reworking which took confidence, which Ben revealed in the time-lapse films he made of the paintings’ evolution. This, for me sums up my brother, as well as his work; calm and composed on the surface but continually striving to be remade better.”

Dissenter webDissenter (Ben Cove 2015, image courtesy of the artist’s estate)

“I wouldn’t say that I’m a painter, I don’t describe myself as a painter specifically, I’d say that I was an artist who happens to use quite a lot of paint.” – Ben Cove interviewed by Morgan Quaintance for Resonance FM, Studio Visit, 10 January 2016.

Ben Cove studied architecture at the University of Nottingham prior to completing a further BA in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. In 2008 he was also awarded an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Recent solo projects have included Modern Language, Peter von Kant Gallery, London; Ben Cove, Three Works Project Space, Dorset; and Vernacular Hangover, Acme Project Space, London. He has been included in many recent group shows in the UK, Japan, Germany and Canada including: The London Open, Whitechapel Gallery, 2015; Indefinable Cities, Airspace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent and Art Takahashi, Hikone, Japan, 2015 and has been selected for the John Moores Painting Prize 2016 on display at the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool 9 July – 27 November 2016.

Director of Aspex, Joanne Bushnell said: “We are both proud and sad to be presenting Double-Dutch a fantastic collection of Ben’s work. We hope the exhibition will be a wonderful celebration of his artistic practice, which I have followed attentively over many years. I have valued the opportunity of working closely with Ben’s sister Melanie Cove to bring his work to our audience, and thank the Cove family for their support and trust.”

The exhibition will be open to the public from 2 July 2016, with a preview on Friday 1 July, 6 – 8pm.


Portsmouth Students visit House of Commons

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Students enroute to the House of Commons webFive students from Portsmouth schools visited the House of Commons this week to attend a debate and dinner at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Engineering. Whilst in Parliament they were hosted on a tour of the building by Flick Drummond, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, and had the opportunity to meet and catch up with Penny Mordaunt, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North.

The students were Floss Willcocks and Joe Allen from Portsmouth Grammar School, Blessing Aina from Portsmouth College and Rachel Kellagher and Frankie McBride from Portsmouth High School.

The students were visiting the House of Commons to attend an All Party Parliamentary Engineering Group debate and discussion on Artificial Intelligence, which was hosted by Professor the Lord Broers. The trip had been organised by Rod Edwards, Chief Executive of the Young Engineers charity, who accompanied the students to Parliament.

Rod said: “I often have the opportunity to take young potential engineers from the Portsmouth area up to these APPG Engineering debates and dinners in Parliament, and I am always massively encouraged by the maturity and motivation of the young people from our city. Two of the best and most thought-provoking questions of the evening were asked by girls from Portsmouth schools. The opportunity for these young people to hear from such eminent engineers is highly motivational for them. The students this week were especially lucky as they also had the opportunity to have a personal guided tour of Parliament from Flick Drummond, and an opportunity to talk to Penny Mordaunt, ahead of the APPG debate, so it really was an outstanding day for them, jammed in between their exams!”.

Students with Penny Mordaunt web

Flick Drummond said: “It was a real pleasure to meet the students from Portsmouth schools earlier this week. It was a valuable opportunity for me to hear about their studies and career ambitions. It is really important that young people from Portsmouth get the opportunity to visit Parliament to learn about how Government works. The Palace is also full of history and I hope the students had a memorable experience”.
After the APPG debate the students had the opportunity to visit the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, where they had the opportunity to talk to many senior and eminent engineers over drinks and food, before taking the train back to Portsmouth, tired but very motivated.

Students with Flick Drummond web


Summer Reading Challenge

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Big Summer Read

Looking for something totally FREE to do with the kids over the long school holiday?

Celebrate 100 years of the world’s favourite storyteller, Roald Dahl with The Big Friendly Read, the Summer Reading Challenge 2016 in all Portsmouth Libraries from Saturday 16th July.

To take part children need to read at least six library books over the holidays - fact books, joke books, e-books and audio books, they all count.

For each book they read they'll receive a card that makes up a set to complete a special folder - each card features an original piece of Quentin Blake artwork from a Roald Dahl story, as well as some fun things to do. But be warned, some of the cards stink! And at the end of the summer all children who have completed the reading challenge and read six books will be invited to Southsea Castle on Sunday 11th September to receive their certificates and medals.

Go to to keep track of progress online and access all kinds of other fun activities - games, competitions and send messages. Children can also find out what to read next using the Book Sorter – it’s packed with recommendations for young readers.

Answer a few fun questions, and the Book Sorter will come up with all kinds of ideas to inspire kids to complete their challenge. There's also a special app to help you get much more from The Big Friendly Read. Go to to download it and get reading.


New health promotion scheme piloted at two Portsmouth schools

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The Public Health Team at Portsmouth City Council are this month launching Junior Health Heroes, a new school-based health promotion project. It's initially being piloted at two primary schools in the city, Arundel Court Primary School and St George's Beneficial C of E Primary School. The initiative aims to engage Year 5 pupils in learning about important health topics, including physical activity, healthy eating and emotional wellbeing. The project will involve children creating fun superhero characters and stories, which they'll be encouraged to share with friends and family, spreading positive messages about health.

Junior Health Heroes is designed to equip children to make informed decisions that affect health, by improving their knowledge and understanding around key health topics. Engaging children at a young age increases the chances of them making positive health choices throughout life. While focusing on health, Junior Health Heroes will at the same time develop the children's core skills in reading, writing, numeracy and communication.

At the heart of the project is the need to tackle health inequalities across Portsmouth. Enabling children to become more 'health literate' plays a key role in promoting healthy behaviours into adult life. In turn, this will help to reduce the prevalence of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and mental health problems. Junior Health Heroes will complement the work that is ongoing with schools across Portsmouth, such as smoking prevention initiatives in secondary schools, and developing and supporting healthy school environments. The project is initially being run as a pilot, which will allow learning to be taken from the work, with the aim of rolling out the initiative to more schools across the city in the future.

Dr Janet Maxwell, Director of Public Health at Portsmouth City Council, said: "We know that engaging with young children to promote positive messages around health plays a vital role in supporting them to make informed choices throughout life. This new initiative will help children to learn about important issues such as healthy eating, physical activity and mental wellbeing in a fun and accessible way. Positive messages can be spread to peers and families, and encourage healthy choices to become part of everyday life. The Junior Health Heroes project complements the wider work we are doing across the city in promoting healthy school environments, to ensure a healthy future for Portsmouth."

The Headteacher of Arundel Court Primary School, Karen Stocks, commented: "We are really excited to be involved in this new project. We think the children will really enjoy it, whilst learning lots of important things about health at the same time. Ensuring our children receive a well-rounded education, and equipping them to make positive life choices, is something we are very passionate about."


Children get their first taste of opera

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2016 06 10 JP - Opera Workshop 1 web

On Wednesday 8th June children from primary schools across Portsmouth had their first taste of opera at the New Theatre Royal, with the internationally-acclaimed vocalist Melanie Gall and ‘Tilly the opera mouse’.

30 children, aged between 7 and 11 years old, took part in workshops exploring a range of singing and performance skills, before Melanie Gall took to the stage to perform her one-woman show.

Using glove puppets, she told the story of Tilly Mouse who lives under an opera house. Tilly’s dream is to perform on stage, but whenever anybody sees her they scream and run away. With determination, imagination, and help from her friends, Tilly proves that even a mouse can be a star.

The children, who share a passion for singing, heard songs and arias from several operas during the performance, including Gianni Schicchi, Carmen and The Magic Flute.

2016 06 10 JP - Opera Workshop 2 web

Sue Beckett, CEO of Portsmouth Music Hub which organised the event, said: “The children’s confidence grew throughout the workshops, where they had the chance to develop their performance and singing skills, and it’s been a really exciting opportunity for the children to experience opera for the first time. Seeing the children’s enthusiasm and confidence proves that the arts have an important part to play in our young people’s education.”

After the event Ethan Maniebo, aged 11 from St. Paul’s Primary School, said: “It was a good experience and I learnt a lot of new things. I really like the acting and singing. It was brilliant and I didn’t realise I could sing opera.”

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