Suzanne van Rossenberg
The task that Fiona Wallace sets herself, is one the most difficult ones I know: to take the language of prejudice and sexism, infiltrate its business-as-usual, but then make it one’s own. Contemporary art worlds are well known to be sexist and racist, but they are not easily diversified at all. In a recent television interview one of the Guerrilla Girls, an art-activist group that has fought sexism in the arts for more than 30 years already, said: “We say art should look like the rest of our culture. Unless all the voices of our culture are in the history of art, it’s not really the history of art. It’s the history of power.” 
Fiona Wallace’s interventions are subtle and subversive, but are inscribed in this same art history of struggles to obtain a voice. Epistemology of Women deploys the language of serenity and activism; a depiction of Virgin Mary on cloth is buttoned up with badges of the derogatory names women have been called. An ABC for misogynists consists of 26 life-size mono prints of women who are each linked to terms that are used in society to put women down or keep them in place. By stating the obvious that there is no link between the women and the derogative terms, Wallace’s play with representation has the potential to —painfully— expose her viewers’ own sexism. Wallace’s art stands in the tradition of aesthetics that frame meaning of the art works through authorship, context and reception. By interacting with, and interviewing, participants and using their input in her art works, the artist not only creates her own art context and reception (her own voice), but also instigates a new, active counter-public to think about and act upon art and feminist issues. Wallace’s art works are frameworks in which storytelling takes place as activism — one of the most important characteristics of a contemporary art practice.
Suzanne van Rossenberg is an artist, researcher and activist. She is currently completing her PhD at Middlesex University.
1. Fox, D. (2016) The Guerrilla Girls Call Out Art-World Inequality, WNYC. Available at: http://www.wnyc.org/story/sideshow-guerrilla-girls-call-out-art-world-inequality/
Fiona Wallace is an artist who studied MA Fine Art at Middlesex University (2016), following an access course in fine art at the Working Men’s College (2013) and continuing practice workshops (2014). She has a first degree in philosophy and psychology from Leeds University, and a post graduate Social Work Diploma. Fiona Wallace worked for more than 25 years as a social worker specialising in mental health and child protection Court cases with children and adults at points of crisis and dissolution.
Group shows include Iridescent at the Darnley Gallery, Hackney (2014); Immeasurable at the Blyth Gallery, London (2015); A Heap of Language at the Gasworks Gallery, London (2016) and New Wave at the Truman Brewery Gallery, London (2016).