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Rose English portrait
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I found the freedom completely overwhelming at first. I just remember that big studio: the hangar space, and trying to find some place to root myself and just finding a little school desk and setting it up there and that being my spot and I felt almost frozen. I just felt there was this incredible activity going on all around me that felt very vibrant but I just didn’t know how to navigate it…I think that I recognised it was very much a sink–or–swim situation, you were just thrown in there and you had to make out in this situation of incredible freedom. But it was freedom supported by extraordinary technical facilities…You weren’t thrown into a void or a vacuum; it was a milieu and a culture which was very vibrant – quite contentious, there was a lot of argument. You had to know how to stand your ground. You could be completely torn to shreds but in a good humoured way…I suppose it was a form of being tempered

Rose English, Fine Art Charnley, J. (2015) Creative License: From Leeds Collage of Art to Leeds Polytechnic 1963-1973, Lutterworth Press, p100.

Rose English

Fine Art (1971-1973)

Rose English emerged from the Conceptual art, dance and feminist scenes of 1970’s Britain to become one of the most influential performance artists working today. Her uniquely interdisciplinary work combines elements of theatre, circus, opera and poetry to explore themes of gender politics, the identity of the performer and the metaphysics of presence.

English has mounted performances in ice rinks; at the Royal Court Theatre and Tate Britain, London and Franklin Furnace, New York; and collaborated with horses, magicians and acrobats. Her work ranges from her site-specific performances and collaborations of the 1970s including Quadrille, Berlin and Mounting, her acclaimed solos of the 1980s including Plato’s Chair and The Beloved to her large-scale spectaculars of the 1990s including Walks on Water, The Double Wedding and Tantamount Esperance. Her internationally celebrated solo with a horse; My Mathematics, was produced Cultural Industry and a series of vignettes with horses were presented by The Banff Centre, Canada and The Serpentine Gallery, London. Ornamental Happiness; a show in song and circus opened the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art in 2006 followed by Flagrant Wisdom, commissioned by National Glass Centre in 2009. English co-wrote and designed the feature film The Gold Diggers, 1983 directed by Sally Potter; digitally re-mastered and released on BFI DVD in 2009.

English’s performance works of the 1970s featured in the exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Her installation Quadrille was shown at Freize Masters, London, 2013 with Karsten Schubert, and is now part of the Tate collection.

Recent solo exhibitions include The Eros of Understanding, 2014 at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen and A Premonition of the Act, 2015 at Camden Arts Centre, London. Abstract Vaudeville: The Work of Rose English, a major new monograph by Guy Brett was published by Ridinghouse in 2014.

Her awards include the Time Out Performance Award, the Wingate Scholarship and the Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists.

BA (Hons)

Fine Art

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