Working the Medium of Metal – The Art of Tobbe Malm

Born and raised in a small mining community in Sweden where iron was produced since the early Middle Ages, Tobbe Malm is a social worker and has primarily worked with people through different creative processes. He took an interest in art at an early age, and since 1990 he has developed his style working in reclaimed metal. Since 2008 Malm has been living and working in Norway and creating his art full time.

A: You describe yourself as an artist blacksmith and a photographer. How have you developed your style?
TM: Over the last three years I have been removing a lot of the expression in my work and partly allowing the materials to talk for themselves. I happily recycle scrap metal, and enhance the expression I find interesting within the different materials. The same goes for my photos, I’d rather photograph people in the streets, in the middle of living and I love taking pictures with a wide angle lens which means I have to go close. this also means that I get to meet the person!

A: What have been your influences and what inspires your work?
TM: Heavy industry was always present during my childhood, affecting people and the social structure I saw around me. The Law of Jante guaranteed class society “efficiency” but the blast furnace was shut down 1981 and the last mine closed the same year. Now nature is taking back it’s domain, breaking down what is man-made and recovering, I feel there is a beauty in that. The last few years, my town’s history has been a great source of inspiration and I have made it the subject of exploration which now strongly characterizes my work.

A: Tell us about the piece that is in the magazine and how you work with bolts in human form
TM: I want to portray a feeling, a situation, or communication. By heating and shaping the hard material into human forms expressing emotions, the theme amplifies- it becomes a tender expression. I put a lot of time into the first notes and sketches. The idea of the sculpture in the magazine came to me spontaneously over an evening in the workshop. I was deep in thought about my memories, both as child and as a parent and I remember I was very moved when it was completed.

A: What are your processes for working with the medium of metal and how has that changed over time?
TM: My work is often inspired by meetings with people and situations, experiences and memories. I want to tell stories, I want to be true, open and inviting. The cold, hard iron is heated to a thousand degrees and becomes malleable. With this, I get a brief moment to express my idea. With the hammer I “freeze” a feeling, a meeting, a word or an entire story. It can be my story or the viewer’s.

A: Where do you see your work going in the future?
TM: So far I have exhibited my work in Scandinavia, but lately interest abroad has increased. It would be very exciting to do exhibitions in other parts of the world. I am also working on a project where I make instruments of scrap metal and compose music. This becomes a kind of performance art with other media such as photo / video, and human bodies. The project is in collaboration with a group that exerts body suspension.

You can see more of Tobbe Malm’s work by visiting his webiste at

To see his listing in the Artists’ Directory in Aesthetica Magazine issue 64 pick up a copy at

1. Bolt Poetry- Courtesy of the artist
2. Contemporary Metal sculpture courtesy of the artist

Follow us on Twitter @AestheticaMag for the latest news in contemporary art and culture.