The exhibition will focus on key pieces from the 70’s to the 90’s, exploring a breadth of work central to Finn-Kelcey’s practice.
She first came to prominence in the early 1970s as an artist central to the emerging communities of performance and Feminist art in the UK. The nature of Finn-Kelcey’s work is richly diverse, both in form and subject matter, however it is consistently conceptual and “characterised by a dry wit that belies the formidable intelligence and deep humanity that drove her practice ”.She deftly offers humour as a point of access into her work, allowing a wide and varied audience to consider topics as varied as life, death and spirituality communicated with great depth and profundity.
Finn-Kelcey was involved in different forms of social and political activism, communicated in particular in her series of ‘flagworks’. The flags, which she described as ‘wind-dependent objects’, are sculpted by the unpredictable environmental variables they encounter, the position of the spectator and their performative messages. Here is a Gale Warning (1971), was flown from the top of Alexandra Palace which was, at the time, both an exhibition space and broadcasting station for BBC2. The installation triggered a considerable response from worried callers who jammed the BBC switchboard as a result.
In the mid-1970s, Finn-Kelcey began staging performances. One for Sorrow Two for Joy (1976) for example, was presented over two days and nights in the window of Acme Gallery in Covent Garden and featured the artist alongside a pair of magpies who’s calls were broadcast to passing onlookers. The performance was a direct response to Joseph Beuys’ habitation with a coyote, I Love America, America Loves Me, and signalled her early interest in making work which transitory and ephemeral. The magpies symbolised Finn-Kelcey’s alter-ego, a mythical female species associated with witchcraft and mischief, and represented the search for her role as a female artist in a male-dominated art world.
One of the most publicly known works The Restless Image: a discrepancy between the seen position and the felt position created in 1975, portrays the artist doing a handstand on a beach near Dungeness, UK. It appears to be an act of exuberance, an impulsive gesture, but the work’s subtitle suggests a divergence between the lived experience of the subject and what is presented to the viewer. In 1980 she introduced the idea of a‘vacated performance’ in an effort to express a desire to be both ‘inside’ and yet objectively ‘outside’ a work. This involved combining live-action and recorded elements as part of an installation and was epitomised in exhibitions Mind the Gap (1980) and Glory (1983) staged at the ICA and Serpentine Gallery respectively.
In the early 1990s Finn-Kelcey challenged the material and spiritual limits of the built environment with works such as Steam Installation, a room sized block of steam held in place by cold air curtains, exhibited in 1992 at Chisenhale Gallery and again in 1993 as part of Young British Artists Part 2 at the Saatchi Gallery. The work visually dramatised tensions between opposing forces, holding nature in suspension.