Taking Care: Yasmina Karli Malmsten

November 2, 2018 by

Malmo based artist Yasmina Karli Malmsten’s prints are tender and intimate. Figures lounge in pools, stretch, or recline against one another. And notably these figures are all female. Throughout her work the body takes precedence, its shape held solid with blocks of color. The depiction of women at rest and being vulnerable with one another feels especially important considering the charged discussions about women’s safety, bodies, and validity.

“We’re going through a time when we’re surrounded by intimidating and tiring stuff, fighting several battles every day. It feels more important to me now than ever to surround myself with friends and family and to have safe places to return to, to be able to relax and exist without having to explain or prove myself, without performing.”

In Malmsten’s prints we see the body relax, it is set loose to take a natural and unrestricted form, seemingly unaware of or indifferent to our gaze.  

“There is so much complicated context that surrounds a naked body. Its freeing to be able to draw a body in a more neutral space, to have the opportunity to look at a body without judgement, just letting my hand and brain work together to communicate the shapes in front of me.” The bodies Malmsten presents to us are reminiscent of figures painted on vases in ancient Greece–their outlines define the space on the page, their shape is sturdy and they show us a glimpse into daily and private life.

The Treat, alternatively titled Your Back is Mine depicts a quiet moment between two figures. The fact that these figures are headless places the emphasis onto their bodies which appear as both connected and separate. Through this print Malmsten considers self-care and the care of others; blurring the division between the figures suggests that caring for one’s self extends beyond the individual.

A characteristic feature in her prints is her use of split-fountains to create soft gradations that are contrasted with solid fills of color, usually hues of pink, red, yellow, and blue. “I often return to the shade of pink that is used to paint all of the buildings in Marrakesh. I think my experiences as a child continue to affect my art and my color palate in ways I don’t realize in my subconscious. I have a constant longing for Morocco and my family there.” Like returning to a familiar place or memory, Malmsten’s work carries an aura of myth and introspection.

A number of her prints include pools of water in which figures dip in and out. For Malmsten, water is a recurring manifestation of “life, calm, weightlessness, and other pleasant things.” In her series Pölen, two figures appear silhouetted in a pool, as though they are bathing in the reflected light of a sunset. We also see the development of a loose narrative, I try not to overthink the stories of my characters before making a print. I don’t think you’re obliged as an artist to analyze or interpret your own work during your process. Even though the specifics of my narratives are ambiguous, I do hope to communicate a feeling of safety, acceptance and reassurance.”

Malmsten first encountered screenprinting while at Grimslövs Folkhögskola School of Art. Initially printing on fabric, she moved to working on paper and has continued to develop her practice with this medium. Currently, Malmsten is pushing her boundaries and experimenting with new techniques that challenge her familiar aesthetic. “[At Women’s Studio Workshop] there’s room to develop projects that are more time consuming and complicated than my usual prints. It’s important to keep on challenging myself to come up with new imagery. As long as a project feels interesting I try to trust my eye and trust my own vision.” Much like the characters in her prints, Malmsten finds freedom and support in “a space filled with women, surrounded by nature in a calm environment.”

The deeper context of her imagery emerges subtlety through the content—women in repose, women at ease with themselves and each other, women held in comfort and safety. The vague environments let the viewer imagine whatever setting they need in the moment: a hot bath, a pool, an oasis in the desert. They are open doors for our imagination to enter into and find our personal sanctuary.

Yasmina is an artist based in Malmö, Sweden. In 2014 she attended a year-long program in Grimslövs School of Arts where she was able to try out multiple disciplines. She grew attached to printmaking and has continued studying the methods of silkscreen and art in Östra Grevie ever since. Yasmina also works in textile art, film making, and pottery. She enjoys covering large areas with color and likes how the elements of surprise can bring life into printed work. Her work explores that which is always present, like the body and gravity.

Marisa Malone is an artist and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been published in Selfish Magazine and BlazeVox Journal   and she has self-published two chapbooks of poetry.