Rose English is a veteran and so am I, I have seen her perform ‘in the flesh’. All of her work is eccentric and unmistakeably by her. It is tough, sometimes gauche, but always packs a punch. This lively show contained a lot of work though which I hadn’t seen before. As well as early photographic work which included Bed in Field (1971) which shows she and her partner snuggling down in the furrows of a ploughed field, there was the fabulously animated Porcelain Dancer 1-4 of 1973 (image 1) plus some highly imaginative collages and a remarkable piece made of jigsaw cut plywood in three parts (image 2).
She is however essentially a performance artist and it is in the video of Plato’s Chair (images 3 and 4) that her strengths and weaknesses become clearer. She has a lot of energy and, yes, you feel invigorated at first by what you see but then, after a while, it starts to get on your nerves. She is restless and perpetually on the move: pacing, twirling, clicking her castanets faster and faster, sharp elbows and bony face taut with concentration. Of course performance art was never for the faint hearted but this work feels akin to a particularly gruelling marathon. This video lasted for 84 minutes, I limped away after 35.
Nevertheless this show made clear how much she has to offer. I hope that in this world where Fake is not only accepted but often glorified, a new generation will respond to her dedication and commitment to her craft . It is impressive and it should be recognised.
Rose English ‘Form, Feminisms, Feminities’ is at Richard Saltoun, 41 Dover Street, London W1S 4NS until 13 April.