Sísí Ingólfsdóttir is an Icelandic artist and a mother of five. Her art takes inspiration from her personal life and expresses feminism and motherhood, often from a humorous perspective.

Reykjavík based Sísí Ingólfsdóttir is currently exhibiting at Safnasafnið, the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum, until September this year. The exhibit Home Decorations includes her embroidery pieces with excuses and statements by a mother in dialogue with traditional Icelandic crafts about gender roles. Historically, women were only allowed to do handcrafts and arts in their free time and if the end product was a useful. This is a topic close to Sísí’s heart, and she often plays around the invisible line of arts and crafts as well as product design and art.

Sísí Ingólfsdóttir: Sorry about all the children

Mind Your Step (2019), Art Museum of Einar Jónsson. Photo: Patrik Ontkovic

The artist’s personal life as a mother and a sexual being influences her art. Over the years, she has held exhibitions and initiated art collectives with the purpose of giving women space and empowering female artists to take space. For example, Sísí creates a limited collection of modern prints on porcelain plates which depict different aspects of women caring.

Sísí has a bachelor’s degree in art history and theory as well as a Master of Arts degree in fine arts. As part of her dissertation at the Iceland University of the Arts, she held a solo exhibition called I am sorry I dragged you here at Rýmd. It consisted of a performance and an installation in the form of a long tablecloth embroidered with apologies. “Many of these apologies are sentences I myself, as well as the women around me, have said out loud in an unconscious attempt to fit into a gendered system where women have to ask for forgiveness.”

Sísí Ingólfsdóttir: Sorry about all the children

Monument of a Mother in Nýló (2020). Photo: Claudia Hausfeld

Monument of Mother

The Icelandic artist has been inspired by for instance British artist Tracey Emin, creator of Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent decorated with the names of everyone the artist had ever shared a bed with. On Monument of a Mother, a water fountain that she sculptured out of clay, Sísí wrote sentences about people she has been with emotionally or sexually. The text is very personal but not with the purpose of identifying anyone, rather for the audience to connect with.

Men also feature in her installations, such as in Mind Your Step from 2019, an exhibition with penises laid out in a path on the floor that the audience had to navigate. And the paintings in Not a Boys Club exhibited earlier this year feature typical middle-aged white men in suits, together with proud, naked women.

It becomes clear that in all her work, whether installations or sculptures, drawings or paintings, plates or embroidery that Sísí has a clear idea and a distinct style: figurative and often in one or a few colours with simple, perfectly drawn lines. “I always draw things a couple of times, then I make it bigger and use a light table to make the lines perfect. Bigger is usually better, it’s like going to the theatre and getting the full-on experience.”

Sísí Ingólfsdóttir: Sorry about all the children

Mother, Lover, Maid (2018).

Heartbreak and what-ifs

In June, her new solo show What if…? opens at SÍM gallery in downtown Reykjavík. It will feature paintings and works connected to the subject of miscarriage and termination of a pregnancy – for instance, a drawing showing ultrasounds of an empty uterus and sculptures of various stages.

“I feel a strong desire to get this subject off my chest and hopefully open up a discussion about the heartbreak of losing a baby, but also how the world is changing in terms of women’s rights to their body. Of course, they should get to decide what they do with their own body without any apologies.” Sísí is fully aware that this is a sensitive topic, but hopes to stimulate an active conversation.

Over the years, Sísí’s work has received positive reactions from the audience and in the press, and she is a highly popular and sought after artist with a constant waiting list. “I’m rather polite in my art even though it can sometimes be controversial,” she reflects and concludes, “I don´t scream the message on the top of my lungs, I simply draw attention to certain things that are important in my life.”

Sísí Ingólfsdóttir: Sorry about all the children

Sísí Ingólfsdóttir.

If in Iceland, take the opportunity to see some of Sísí’s work:

Home Decorations (Heimilisprýði) showing at Safnasafnið, the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum Open 10-17 everyday until 10 September 2023


What if...? (Hvað ef..?) showing at SÍM gallery
Opens 15 June (18-21), then open every weekday 13-15 and weekends 14-17 until 29 June


Various embroidery works showing at Listval @ HARPA
Wednesday to Friday 12-17, Saturday


Web: www.ingolfsdottir.com
Instagram: @sisiingolfsdottir

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