‘Art is my light as my world is getting darker’

Local art gallery seeks support to provide opportunities for blind and partially sighted people to experience art.
Portsmouth’s leading contemporary art gallery Aspex, based in Gunwharf Quays, celebrates the opening of its latest exhibition this spring. Journey by Dots (8 April – 26 June 2022) presents the most ambitious collection of work to date by Portsmouth artist Clarke Reynolds in his first solo exhibition in a major gallery.

Losing the sight in his right eye at six years old and later diagnosed with the degenerative condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, Reynolds decision to become a visual artist may seem to some to be a surprising choice.

It was an experience on a childhood school trip in the 1980s; however, that planted the seed for Reynolds’ artistic career. He visited Aspex for the first time at its original location in Art Space Portsmouth on Brougham Road. Throughout the years, Reynolds has returned to Aspex on countless occasions, and it’s these visits that he says changed his life.

‘Aspex saved my life. It truly has. I don’t think people realise, in my estate, 80% of people who grew up there are addicts, in jail or dead. I am not one of them. What more can you say? Art is my light as my world is getting darker.’

Reynolds has become a regular member of Aspex’s Touch Tour community in more recent years. Established in 2017, Aspex’s Touch Tours provides an alternative interpretation of the gallery’s exhibitions for blind and partially sighted people, using tactile elements, verbal descriptions, group discussion and practical activities. The sessions are run by artist-educator Jo Bressloff, who has 17 years of experience delivering interactive art experiences for blind and partially sighted people, including conducting online sessions during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Aspex’s Touch Tours have not only enabled more people in Portsmouth to experience contemporary art but also fostered a close community within which participants can connect over their shared love of creativity.