Leading British post-war and contemporary conceptual artist Rose Finn-Kelcey is known for her materially and thematically diverse oeuvre of accessible dry-witted and ephemeral works.Read More
For over 40 years Rose Finn-Kelcey's art took forms including performance, sculpture, installation, video, sound, photography, collage, papercut, and prints. She engaged audiences in the gallery space and beyond in diverse topics including feminism, social liberation, commodity culture, spirituality, life, and death.
Born and raised in Buckinghamshire in a large farming family, Rose Finn-Kelcey studied at Ravensbourne University London before moving on to the Chelsea College of Arts, London. From 1968 she lived and worked for the rest of her life in London. Her early public 'flag' works were inspired by her social activism. For Power For The People (1972), she flew two massive black flags emblazoned with the words 'Power for the people' from masts on Battersea Power Station.
Rose Finn-Kelcey's Divided Self (1974) exemplifies the photographic arm of her practice that developed in the 1970s. Presenting a photo-collage in which she engages in conversation with a copy of herself in Hyde Park, the artist blurs the boundaries that divide viewer, creator, and subject. This was a precursor to her iconic The Restless Image: a discrepancy between the seen position and the felt position (1975), for which she performed a handstand on a beach she visited as a child.
From the mid-1970s, Finn-Kelcey also staged performances, exhibiting alongside conceptual and performance art compatriots such as Carlyle Reedy, Tina Keane, and Paul Burwell. Her approach later shifted from personal participation to the 'vacated performance', which combined live-action and recorded performances, directed by the artist, with installations.
Rose Finn-Kelcey's Bureau de Change (1987) exemplifies the approach of the 'vacated performances'. In it, a homage to Vincent van Gogh's Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers (1888) made from £1000 worth of coins was actively watched over in an ongoing performance by a security guard and CCTV. Continuing the theme of transience in her work, after each exhibition, the artist returned the currency to the bank to be re-absorbed into general circulation.
Although Rose Finn-Kelcey passed away in 2014 from motor neurone disease, her artistic legacy lives on. Her work has been presented in exhibitions and institutions across Britain and overseas, and artworks can be found in major public collections including Tate, London; the British Council Collection; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She is also remembered with the annual Rose Finn-Kelcey Bursary Scholarship programme at the Royal College of Art, London.
Bureau De Change, Tate Britain, London (2019); Life, Belief and Beyond, Modern Art Oxford (2017); Bureau de Change, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2003); Truth Dare, Double Dare, Chisenhale Gallery, London (1992), and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (1994); Book and Pillow, Galleria del Cavallino, Venice (1978).
Modern British Sculpture, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2011); A Century of Artists' Film in Britain, Tate Britain, London (2003); Live in your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965–75, Museu do Chiado, Lisbon (2000); Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object 1949–1979, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1998); Young British Artists Part 2, Saatchi Gallery, London (1993); London Now, Telekomunikation Tower, Berlin (1971).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020
Rose Finn-Kelcey's exhibition curators, Andrée Cooke and Simon Moretti, discuss the show with installation views, archive film, photography and anecdotes from their relationship with the artist. Prod