• Top

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language (detail)

Art

Publication: What happens when Malin Gabriella Nordin lets children interpret her sculptures?

Posted by Maisie Skidmore,

Malin Gabriella Nordin is a Swedish artist who creates colourful, sculptural works of art which, rather than skirting unconventionality, embrace childlike playfulness with arms wide open. So much so in fact that she invited a group of children to interpret her ambiguously-shaped sculptures, adding to her collection with their own drawings and giving her their thoughts on what she had made.

The results of her experiment are in equal parts charming, inspiring and very funny, not to mention beautifully documented in Private Language, the publication which she has compiled to present her findings. Highlights include the descriptions the children give of the pieces, for example: “At first this was a sausage and now it is a banana.” “How did it become a banana?” “I did some magic.”

Intrigued and utterly won over, we interviewed Malin about the project and the publication born from it. Read below to find out her favourite interpretation, and to find out what she thought of the reactions!

  • 3

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

Tell us a bit about Private Language.

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 connected to them, which one they liked the most, etc. I asked each child if they felt the collection was missing something, and if so could they draw the missing piece. I asked them if the sculptures were placed in the right order or if they wanted to rearrange them, which every child except for one did. Even the children who didn’t have anything to say about my sculptures were so certain when they started to move them around.

There was no hesitation – they knew exactly how and where they were supposed to go. Before any judgment on the beautiful or the ugly, before any acceptance or refusal (official or private), they provided a testimony of a certain way of experiencing the world. In this world objects have souls, they have personalities, they even look like “the little man” and they do interact with each other. 

With the book I wanted to share this state of mind, and explore how art can be something to move around or even be a part of, not just something to look at. There’s no right or wrong, instead it can be a way of taking part in something with your own set of rules.

What have you taken away from the book?

Well, the dialogues are just fragments of longer ones. By not explaining which sculpture they are talking about I wanted to keep an openness in the book, to let the readers be able to form their own associations.

How will it inform your work in the future?

I usually work by myself in what I call my own “Game of Telephone,” where each step leads to the next, shifting in material and technique, always involving some kind of translation in process. After the meeting with the children I started to work on new pieces, by interpreting their drawings based on their shared thoughts and personalities. By letting the children into my process I wasn’t alone in my “Game of Telephone” anymore, it was suddenly a game with more participants.

  • 4

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

  • 5

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

  • 6

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

  • 7

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

  • 1

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

  • 2

    Malin Gabriella Nordin: Private Language

Ms-300

Posted by Maisie Skidmore

Assistant Editor Maisie joined It’s Nice That fresh out of university in the summer of 2013 and has stayed with us ever since. She has a particular interest in art, fashion and photography and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast. She also oversees our London listings guide This At There.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Ellakru-painting-7home-int

    Latvia-born Ella Kruglyanskaya now lives and works in New York, depicting cartoon-like friends and “frienemies” out-and-about in large-scale oil paintings and murals. Ella’s work is packed with bawdy humour, exaggerated forms, exuberant mark-making and interactions. She describes her intention as “pictorial events… [that] aspire to an unspoken punch line” – the content, references and line-work all filtered through comedy.

  2. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  3. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  4. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  5. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.

  6. Atelierbingo-list-int

    Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo’s new zine Wogoo Zoogi I’d never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is “they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it’s everything we’ve been led to expect from the pair, who we’ve dolloped praise on in the past.

  7. Faigahmed-carpets-list-2-int

    Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani artist doing remarkable things with carpets. He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

  8. Slavs_tatars-loveletters-home-int

    The work of Slavs & Tatars is awash with unlikely cultural references, balloons, archives and carpets. Identifying “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” as the focus of their work, their projects are generous, engaging and genre-crossing. Starting as a reading group before shifting into making their own work, Slavs & Tatars have recently been working on a continuation of their Long Legged Linguistics project, a multi-faceted study of language as a source of emancipation. The somewhat secretive collective were kind enough to tell us more about this and their “bazaar” approach to making work.

  9. Davidbatchelor-october-13-int

    If you go down to the Whitechapel Gallery anytime between now and early April you’ll be sure to come across a huge breadth of work chronicling the adventures of the black square, from 1915 all the way up to the present day. It’s fairly monochromatic, as you might expect. Upstairs, however, things get drastically more colourful – especially once you come to David Batchelor’s specially “disrupted” issue of October, one of the most respected art journals out there, first published in 1976 and edited by esteemed writers Michel Foucault, Richard Foreman and Noël Burch.

  10. Alexdacorte-easternsport-1-int

    Perennial student artist Alex Da Corte has qualifications, residencies and awards coming up to his eyeballs having studied Film, Animation and Fine Arts at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Printmaking and Fine Arts at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and then a cheeky MFA in Sculpture at Yale. Busy guy!

  11. Duane_hanson_-_karma3

    Karma Books have just published a catalogue of Duane Hanson’s post-humous exhibition Flea Market Lady. Shown at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, Duane’s flea market ladies are taken from real-life characters and cast in bronze. An incredible feat of observation and skill, his work captures the character of his models and creates a very real atmosphere of flea-ing. Karma have kindly let us publish an extract from the imaginary conversation Maurizio Cattelan has with the artist in the foreword to the book:

  12. Hdl5_copy

    Hubert de Lartigue paints photo-realistic portraits that “serve the beauty” of his models, and his muse. He considers “emotion and soul” the most important part of a painting and spoke to us about his working process, inspiration and the impact of his muse, Octavie.

  13. Main_10.00.34

    If I won the lottery I’d open a gallery, and when I opened my gallery I’d totally rip off everything that David Kordansky Gallery does. From the big stuff like the very well-curated, cool list of artists they represent, to the impeccable printed matter they produce, to the matter of their easily navigable and well designed website – these guys are celebrating people’s work in the best way possible.