Deborah gives her verdict on the Power for the People exhibition running at Firstsite until March 4th, and was lucky enough to bag a seat at the talk by Grayson Perry at the Town Hall!
Rose Finn-Kelcey was one of the most innovative and exciting artists of her era. Born in Northampton and growing up in Buckinghamshire as part of a large family, she worked in London with various forms of media including performance art, sculpture, installations, video and sound, photography and paper cut-outs. She passed away in 2014 of motor neuron disease.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I entered Firstsite. The giant flag welcoming you into the foyer is by her friend, Peter Liversidge with a big Hello, that ushers you onto the neon lightning strike by another of her friends, Simon Morreti – Untitled (Strike) 2010/2017 – exploring the symbolic meanings of this natural phenomenon.
However, once I started exploring her video and 3D pieces, like The Blushing Book Vol 1 (1977) which I admit to being one of my favourites of the exhibition, I felt a natural affinity with her work. Nothing seems pushed or forced. Everything flows and just exists in its own space and you can immerse yourself in each, before moving onto the next.
The samples of her work on display explore spirituality, the self and empowerment. The thing I really like about Finn-Kelcey’s work is that each piece is distinctly individual and doesn’t follow any clearly defined themes. Every piece can stand alone.
In the highly thoughtful Visual Questionnaire (1996) Finn-Kelcey explored what individuals in the service of the church thought God looked like. Responding visually, the skill of the drawings is not important, but the personal interaction and thoughts behind them are. I found this to be a well-documented and considered piece that is worth examining in detail. Take your time, you won’t be disappointed.
Then enter the white room and become immersed in the statements between Finn-Kelcey and fellow artist Donald Rodney, in their collaborative piece ‘Truth, Dare, Double-Dare.’ (1994) This is an insightful piece that you also need to linger over as the two artists speak about what they really thought of each other, sometimes brutally. It is at times painful, at others it makes you smile. It’s a genius of introspection.
The opening night of Rose Finn-Kelcey: Power for the People may not have been as busy as that of Grayson Perry's exhibition, but I feel it is every bit as important a show to visit and explore, as it speaks to the power of your own individual voice.
On now until 4th March 2017 (10am-5pm) and free to enter.
And speaking of Grayson Perry…!
Due to unprecedented ticket demand, Firstsite had to move the recent talk by Grayson Perry to Colchester Town Hall and thank goodness they did! The hall was packed to capacity and it was great to see such a variety of people attending, all eager to listen to the popular artist talk about A House for Essex.
And Perry didn’t disappoint. With his wry sense of humour and gentle empathy with the Essex everywoman, he expounded on his ideas and reasons as to how A House for Essex came about. “I call it Julie’s house really” he gestured to the audience, with a fondness in his voice, explaining how the concept had grown from the desire to build a chapel, influenced by the old stave churches of north west Europe.
Overlooking the River Stour, A House for Essex was a partnership between Grayson Perry and Chris Holland of FAT Architecture with an intimate kitchen which Perry described as “a church backstage” and small bedrooms overwhelmed by giant tapestries. The entire house is filled with beautiful ceramics and designs that tell of the fictional Julie’s life. Over 100 different types of tile decorate the building, all designed by Perry, who noted his love for the dark green tiles that call to mind those of old pubs.
A House for Essex is a homage and shrine to Julie, and to all the things life throws at the average person. The trials, the love, the pain - and if you choose to stay at Julie’s House - you are living through her eyes her accomplishments and failures. Yes, you can stay there!
Perry’s admission that hoisting a car as the centre piece chandelier in the House would have been difficult, explained why Julie met her demise under the wheels of a moped instead, and caused the audience to roar with laughter. This evening was as entertaining as the exhibition itself, at Firstsite till February 18, 2018, which showcases many of the tapestries, as well as sketches of the building. The end of the talk was rather poignant, with Perry confessing his realisation that many aspects of The Ballard of Julie Cope (excluding her death at the hands of a curry delivery driver) was a biographical art piece about his own dear mum.
The Q&A afterwards allowed the audience to question Perry on his choice of names of his characters but more importantly, highlighted how art funding and education is viewed as almost irrelevant in certain quarters, with Perry advocating that it was time that artists in his position need to be more vocal about its demise and how vital art is to education. I hope more artists join him in condemning the lack of funding and promote just how important art education is to British industry.
This Audience with Grayson Perry wasn’t just a promotional exercise. It was the perfect setting for showing just how meaningful art is, how wonderful Essex can be and how much artistic talent we are lucky enough to have here. It’s encouragement for all local emerging artists to be brave in the knowledge they have the support of the Essex every-person as well as Grayson Perry.