phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
Rose Finn Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond

Rose Finn Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond

6 August 2017 | Günseli Yalcinkaya

On March 30, 1987, Van Gogh’s painting, Still Life: Vase with 15 Sunflowers was sold by auction house Christie’s in London for £24.75 million: a price that tripled previous records, breaking newspaper headlines across the globe. The age of excess was in full swing: art did not exist for art’s sake, but as commodity.

Later that year, British avant-garde artist Rose Finn-Kelcey responded by making Bureau de Change, a replica of Van Gough’s painting, made using a range of coins.  The installation, which has since become one of the artist’s best-known works, needs no supporting statement.  Art is money, it says.
 
Glistening against the gallery lights, a recreation of Kelcey’s standout piece greets visitors in the opening gallery at Modern Art Oxford.  It is this combination of deep seriousness and an understanding of the value of irony that dominates the majority of Kelcey’s works. 


Image credits: Sue Ormerod

There is, however, an aspect of generosity to Finn-Kelcey’s work too.  “She has a sense of humour in the way that she approaches the world," explains exhibition curator Stephanie Straine.  "She was really interested in the idea that when you experience her artwork, it would not necessarily be in a gallery, but on the street, and you wouldn’t know it was coming.  The unexpected encounter was important to her".
 
In another piece, titled It Pays to Pray, Kelcey creates a vending machine that offers prayers, all themed around chocolate brands - Bounty, Delight, Ripple - for a refundable 20p.  “People were delighted by the idea that, in the end, it doesn’t cost you anything to receive a prayer”, says Straine.  “She was interested in the idea of what it meant to locate the spiritual in the everyday”.


Image credits: Courtesy the Estate of Rose Finn-Kelcey

Finn Kelcey belonged to a pocket of art that was influenced by the political fervour of the 1960s and 1970s. “She was interested in tracking the kind of difficult bureaucratic nightmare that would often arise when she was trying to put an artwork in a public space, and the negotiations with an electricity board, or a church - all of the difficulties became part of the artwork in a sense”.
 
A desire to find a voice was met with avant-garde experimentation, and not long after, Finn-Kelcey joined the ranks as one of the generation’s most celebrated conceptualists, alongside Susan Hiller and Richard Long. “When you look at how she negotiated all these different systems of power, you can see a relationship between her work, how she interacted with different forms of injustice, and the grassroots activism we’re seeing today,” says Straine, “she was really interested in the powers of dissent in public space”.


Image credits: Courtesy the Estate of Rose Finn-Kelcey


This attraction towards dissent carried through into the artist’s personal and political beliefs.  A fighting member of the Woman’s Artist Collective in London and the Woman Artist Library, Finn-Kelcey took seriously the idea that to be an artist meant to be an agent for change in the artistic community. “You can imagine how difficult it must have been to be a performance artist and not just a painter,” Straine begins, “the range of structural barriers to making a successful career were vast.  She played a big role in all these organisations and played a very influential role as a teacher to the next generation of artists”.
 
“It is interesting to look at her work through the lens of feminism, but she didn’t want to reduce her work to a one-line statement.  She was more interested in the idea that it influenced her work from a background position.  She really probed ideas around gender, identity and ego, and what it means to have a female identity, or a masculine one.”
 
In the performance Bull’s Eye, Finn-Kelcey dresses as both a flamenco dancer and a matador.  “She’s looking at that great connection - identifying a role between lies between masculine and feminine, and what that means”.


Image credits: Courtesy the Estate of Rose Finn-Kelcey

This is the first time a retrospective has been done of Finn-Kelcey’s work, who passed away form motor neurone disease in 2014.  “When she was alive, she always made new work for every exhibition,” explains Straine.  Interestingly, it was in Modern Art Oxford that Finn-Kelcey first exhibited her work. A graduate from the prestigious Chelsea College of Art, Finn-Kelcey displayed a collection of paintings that, although very different from her future works, would set the foundations for a lifetime of experimentation. “I like the idea that her first mature show as an artist out of college was in the same place that now hosts her retrospective”.

'Rose Finn Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond' can be seen at Modern Art Oxford between 15 July - 15 October 2017.
 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

What to Do in Brighton on a Sunday

What to Do in Brighton on a Sunday

It’s Sunday, which means you have a whole day ahead of you before Monday rears its ugly head once again. Although we are all for kicking…

Glitter Gangster: An Interview with Elena Gabrielle

Glitter Gangster: An Interview with Elena Gabrielle

We spoke to international cabaret star and two-time Guinness World Record holder Elena Gabrielle about her Brighton Fringe debut and her new show Glitter Gangster –…

Basim Magdy Exhibition at the Arnolfini in Bristol

Basim Magdy Exhibition at the Arnolfini in Bristol

Human beings have always needed utopias. Our heady, squeezed fraction of time and space on this planet means too little to too many unless we…

An Interview with Damien Hirst

An Interview with Damien Hirst

He’s the mouthy, working class lad who became the world’s wealthiest living artist. But even after such enormous success, Damien Hirst still manages to divide opinion…

Cinema: What’s on This February

Cinema: What’s on This February

It’s February: it’s cold, it’s rainy. Why would you want to go outdoors? A nice warm cinema is the best place to be right now, and with…

Six Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in Oxford

Six Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in Oxford

Just reading the word ‘Oxford’ brings to mind a whole host of classic images: the sandy bricks of the beautiful colleges, gowned students scampering down historic…

An Interview with Cate Blanchett

An Interview with Cate Blanchett

She’s played a queen, an elf and a socialite in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, but actress Cate Blanchett is returning to indie cinema in Song to…

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bristol

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Bristol

So you find yourself in Bristol, and you’re looking to see what the city has to offer. A cursory glance at any profile of the place…

‘A Green and Pleasant Land’ at the Towner Gallery

‘A Green and Pleasant Land’ at the Towner Gallery

What does it mean to leave a human trace on a landscape? What does a photograph of the landscape even look like? In this exhibition…

A Falafel Lover’s Guide to Bristol

A Falafel Lover’s Guide to Bristol

Locals love them, hungover students binge them, and vegans swear by them. Falafels are a staple in any Bristolian's diet, and with such an…

{ad_alt}

Most popular

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

Exhibitions to Look Forward to in 2017

We take a look at what will be gracing galleries in 2017.
Theatre to Look Forward to in 2017

Theatre to Look Forward to in 2017

We look forward to the best theatre, opera and ballet on offer this year.
On Record: An Interview with Sophie Willan

On Record: An Interview with Sophie Willan

We talk to Sophie Willan about her experiences of social care and mental health, and her sell out comedy show.
The Best Healthy-Eating Restaurants in Bristol

The Best Healthy-Eating Restaurants in Bristol

Keep to your new year's resolutions of healthy-eating while still enjoying eating out.
 How to Survive Blue Monday in Edinburgh

How to Survive Blue Monday in Edinburgh

Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, falls on 15 January this year. To cheer your day up try out one of these pick me ups.
Top 5 Roasts in Dover

Top 5 Roasts in Dover

It’s nearly that time of the week again! If you’re embarking on a little trip to Dover soon, make sure you visit one of these for a delicious Sunday roast.
Awards Season Films to see in 2018

Awards Season Films to see in 2018

You get the drinks, we'll get the popcorn.
Albums to Look Forward to in Early 2018

Albums to Look Forward to in Early 2018

Be up to date with the best music in 2018.
24 Hours in Birmingham

24 Hours in Birmingham

If you're headed to Birmingham, check out one of these hot spots for food, drink and culture.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!