Artist Profile: Rose Finn-Kelcey

1 April 2020

This month, Amy Tobin, Lecturer in History of Art, University of Cambridge and Curator, Kettle’s Yard, explores the work of Rose Finn-Kelcey, featured in the latest Arts Council Collection touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945.


Rose Finn-Kelcey’s work stages material collisions that pose universal problems. In her early work this often concerned the disparities between being a woman and being an artist, in her later work she expanded her questioning to broader, humanist problems like the difference between monetary and aesthetic value, or the sacred and the profane.

God’s Bog (2001) very much engages with the latter, this jesmonite sculpture combines an enlarged shell with a toilet. The two have merged together as if mutated. The toilet’s smooth, pristine white is made beautiful by becoming shell-like, and vice versa, the curving form of the shell is disfigured and made abject by the toilet form and its scatological associations. Perhaps the sculpture reminds us of the impact of our civilised society on the natural world, or perhaps the suturing of the two elements, reminds us of our connectedness to the world at the most basic level. 


And what of the title? God’s Bog, like the sculpture itself, brings together high and low references; the sacred and the most profane. Finn-Kelcey is not heretical here, rather, her use of colloquial language brings the Godly to the quotidian, and in doing so invites a different kind of relationship between art and religion, between religion and daily life. Even the way we relate to the work breaks from the traditional idea of an ecstatic or devotional experience of religious art. Finn-Kelcey provokes us to laugh, to identify the joke in her tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition of high and low forms. Unlike historic examples of religious art, Finn-Kelcey’s work explores a new vocabulary for religiosity that is less about doctrine and scripture than a broader idea of spiritual experience. 


Finn Kelcey’s early work from the 1970s and 1980s is often associated with the politics of the women’s liberation movement, although her later work leaves the theme of gender difference behind, it can nonetheless be described as a feminist practice. One way to grasp this feminism is through her use of juxtaposition and combination to create new ways of thinking and new modes of experience. Many feminist scholars and writers point to the organisation of knowledge into binaries – like gender difference, or the sacred and the profane – as the root of discrimination, othering and oppression. Finn-Kelcey collapses these distinctions in her work and in doing so asks us to reset our forms of knowledge and being in the world. 


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.