Modern Art Oxford
Whether performing headstands or re-enacting war, the restless conceptual artist was a true original who shunned the limelight
Complete uplift: that is one way to describe Rose Finn-Kelcey’s most enduring work, a photograph of the artist performing a perfect handstand on a beach. It is a jubilant scene, immediately stirring the same impulse in the viewer. And yet it is also mysterious, for the pleated skirt she wears seems to fall upwards, covering her torso and head like a vast paper fan so that her identity is concealed. An image of exhilarating spontaneity turns out to emerge from close deliberation: that is one revelation of this enthralling survey.
Finn-Kelcey (1945-2014) needs and deserves a lifetime retrospective. She was an artist of evergreen originality. But though she came from a celebrated generation of conceptualists, from Susan Hiller to Richard Long, and although she taught a generation of equally famous YBAs, she was impressively leery of limelight and the gallery system. Her art, moreover, is frequently ephemeral and so unpredictable that no two works are ever alike. She avoided the signature look and the market commodity.