Malin Gabriella Nordin interview

Swedish artist Malin Gabriella Nordin intrigues us with tales of missing pieces and Chinese Whispers.

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i. Private Language, Photo by Emilia Bergmark-Jimenéz, 2012
ii. Private Language, Acrylic on wood, 2011
iii. Private Language (missing piece), Mixed media, 2012
iv. Private Language (missing piece), Mixed media, 2012
v. Private Language (missing piece), Acrylic on wood, 2012

All photos © Malin Gabriella Nordin 2012

What was growing up in Stockholm like, and what were you interested in when you were a kid?

From what I've heard from my parents, my favourite hobby was to cut up all their magazines and tape them together again, but in a different way. I always collected ‘good garbage’– which was egg cartons, empty boxes, Styrofoam, etc – and when I had enough I built different things.

I loved growing up in Stockholm but I don't have anything to compare it to..

When did you decide to move to Bergen to study at Bergen National Academy of the Arts, and how are you liking it?

I moved from Stockholm to Bergen in 2010, because there was a lot going on around me at the time, and I just felt that I had to go somewhere else to be able to focus and take some time for myself.

"I asked each child if they felt the collection was missing something and, if so, could they draw the missing piece."

It's like my own little bubble here, where it's just me, my own thoughts and my own schedule. It's a luxury going to art school – to be able to afford the time to work in a studio everyday, exploring your thoughts.

How do you approach new work? What is your process?

I work intuitively; I never know where or how my work is going to end. I make all decisions during the process and the work is done when there are no decisions left to make. It's like having a conversation between me and the work, and the work is done when there's nothing more to talk about.

I try to let myself make mistakes and find new paths in them, to trust the unpredicted and myself. The next step always depends on the one before.

My process is my own game of Chinese whispers, where I move between different mediums and techniques. Something that started flat on a paper turns into a three-dimensional sculpture from another perspective and then later becomes a collage, etc. The process continues infinitely, as leftover pieces from one project become a major part of the next.

You work extends across collage, drawing, sculpture and installation. Do you have a preferred medium?

I don't know if I prefer one more than the other because they are so different and they all have their own quality. Something is great as a sculpture but not as a painting, or it becomes something else when you paint it. That's why I like to go between mediums – it constantly changes and I also change my way of thinking of it as it alters.

"From what I've heard from my parents, my favourite hobby was to cut up all their magazines and tape them together again, but in a different way."

For your solo show, 
Private Language, you created a collection of sculptures that became interactive for young children. Could you tell us about this process?

I invited 11 children between the ages of three and five to interpret my collection of sculptures.

I met with each child individually for an hour to discuss the collection – what they thought the sculptures looked like, if there was a story, which one they liked the most... I asked each one of them if they felt the collection was missing something and, if so, could they draw the missing piece. I also asked them if the sculptures were placed in the right order or if they wanted to rearrange them, which all except for one did.

Right now I'm working on interpreting their ‘missing pieces’ into new pieces. My interpretations haven’t been based on their drawings only, but also on their personality and what they were talking about. The meeting with the children was a way for me to move forward in my personal process by incorporating their thoughts and imaginations.

"The work is done when there are no more decisions left to make."

What are you working on at the moment?

The project is not finished yet ­– I'm still working on interpreting their ‘missing pieces’, I've just started working on a book that will collect all parts of the process, and there will be at least one more solo show with this project.

What inspires you and drives you to continue making work?

I like to think about things that are uncertain, because they leave more space for your own imagination. Like thinking of the universe – you could just go on forever.

In my work I reconstruct fragments from my memories, dreams and surroundings. It doesn't have to be a specific dream or memory, but more the feeling or the quality of it. It's like I get my emotions or thoughts out through my work ­– but even so, I want to allow the viewer to interpret based on her own thoughts and experiences, not with the aid of explanatory texts.