Malin Gabriella Nordin Floating from Within

Jacquelyn Davis on the intuitive, sensory, reactive work of the Swedish artist

By Jacquelyn Davis

Malin Gabriella Nordin, Szemes (2017). Image: Olof Ringmar, courtesy GSB/Gallery Steinsland Berliner Malin Gabriella Nordin, 'Floating from within (2017). Image: Olof Ringmar, courtesy GSB/Gallery Steinsland Berliner

Gallery Steinsland-Berliner, Stockholm, 18 August – 16 September

Stockholm-based artist Malin Gabriella Nordin is one of many Swedish women artists who resort to the basics – or perhaps the old ways, meaning they’re not particularly interested in the digital. These artists (another would be Alexandra Karpilovski) only peripherally integrate technology, video and film in their art, choosing instead to sketch, paint, draw and sculpt – to use their hands on a fundamental level. Their works are often the highlight of music events or film festivals, because they enjoy crossing boundaries into less institutionalised spheres; they even collude with Swedish pop stars or reputable fashion designers. (For instance, Nordin’s vibrant paintings are interspersed in LIV’s music video for Wings of Love, 2016). Nordin works well within diverse mediums: painting, illustration, sculpture and installation; across them, her craft reflects a cultivated interest in abstraction and experimenting with form. Her signature works, though, are intricate collages, which come in two styles: bold and extreme, or subtle and pastel-shaded, highlighting the complexity of femininity and beauty. Yet this solo show highlights a new selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that accentuate her motif.

Nordin has a playful spirit. Her work does not follow those traditional or ‘learned’ tracks of expression that are often the unfortunate byproduct of attending art schools with more conventional mentors. Even though she attended Bergen’s National Academy of the Arts, she may be an anomaly. At the same time, her work possesses a timeless quality, and one might misidentify it as early-twentieth-century modernism: a wavering blend of Expressionism, Orphism and Fauvism, tempered with a degree of abstraction. In the painting Szemes (all works 2017), two entrancing female figures lounge in a blissful intimate daze, hands meeting at the apex of a centrally located sculpture of three orbs. These women are untainted by pain or unavoidable circumstance, instead inhabiting some lush paradise. They seem to have mastered escapism; the artist may be suggesting fantasy and utopia as attainable goals. The large-scale painting Veil of Dreams is a strong presence here, its shapes resembling – depending on one’s perception – luxuriant flowers, a partial female silhouette or a multilayered landscape.

These women are untainted by pain or unavoidable circumstance, instead inhabiting some lush paradise

A collage can be perceived as a simple gesture, yet Nordin’s earlier collage work harbours an architectural quality where textures overlap, something to hold onto amid the works’ fragmented, asymmetrical compositions. Both those collages and the displayed works (paintings in flashe, felt pen drawings, sculptures) share a quality of diffidence: neither domineering or authoritarian, they instead seduce with sensitivity – both on their own and collectively, as certain associations bounce around the space. Though Nordin is not known for landscapes, all of her work possesses a scenic quality that refers to the natural world, as in the tessellated patterning of the painting It’s Green Silent Peace, whose title reflects its dominant colour. The power and influence of alternative realms appears in Floating from Within, where an intermingling of the secular and phantasmagorical feels to be occurring, the painting’s distorted figure caught up in meditative thought or prayer yet also immersed in the scene.

Throughout, Nordin expresses herself via a delicate interplay between shape, form and texture that leads her out of the realm of representation. The form supports her implicit content: here respective meaning and interpretation are neither fixed nor static, but rather transformational and spectral. The artist, accordingly, cajoles viewers to reevaluate their position in relation to both the world and other entities, and emphasis seems to be placed on the continuous process of becoming via gathered knowledge and experience. Nordin’s work, in this regard, is not premeditated but intuitive, sensory, reactive. If she gets too comfortable with a certain creative trajectory, she has been known to shift gears or simply abandon the notion altogether; and sure enough, that whimsical trait is evident here, as the show pivots to the curvilinear yet piecemeal compositions of her aluminium sculptures Figures 1–3. It’s the work of an artist who, for all her art’s aesthetic appeal, can’t live without discomfort and awkwardness. 

From the October 2017 issue of ArtReview