A teller of tales

Printmaker Kati Thamo Pic Serena Kirby

Small in stature but big in talent, Kati Thamo is a renowned WA printmaker whose work can be found in prestigious galleries around Australia and in a long list of public and private collections both in Australia and overseas. 

Detailed and delicate, Kati’s artworks are filled with references to family, her origins and nature. 

“My parents were immigrants from Hungary,” Kati explains.

“We didn’t travel a lot but when we did go overseas, we always visited art galleries and my mother really fostered my appreciation of art.”

At age 13 Kati was chosen for a special art course at her Perth high school and she says from that point on there was really no question of what path she was going to follow. 

“A lot of printmakers choose one form to work within, but I’m a bit unusual as I do linocutting, etching, collagraph and embossing.”

Kati says there’s a sense of alchemy about printmaking. 

“You have all these processes, one step after another and you’re working on a plate where everything is reversed. After you’ve put it through the print press you just don’t know what you’ll get until you pull the paper off the press. It’s akin to pottery in that you only get to see the end result when you open the kiln door.”

Many curators and collectors have used the word ‘exquisite’ to describe Kati’s work. It’s not just how her work looks that makes her prints so exquisite, it’s also the way in which she layers a number of meanings into a seemingly simple image. As a result, Kati’s work has a strong sense of story about her life and her world and she says images are a bit like poetry, where the viewer can adapt what they see to reflect something in their own world. 

“What I’m experiencing comes out in my art. That’s the same in all art forms. When my kids were at home, I was making artwork showing images of domesticity and stories of family life. It doesn’t mean that the viewer will necessarily pick up on those stories but it does give me the impetus to create the work.”

Many of Kati’s works feature floating images depicting ‘the swirl of life’ and a sense of being caught in life’s currents.

In her earlier artworks she would often create unique prints where the characters and imprints appear like blocks of shadow on the background space. Her Eastern European origins were highly prominent in these works and they portray an essence of mystery and myth, folklore and fairy tale.

More recently Kati has been exploring the natural world and depicting images that act as metaphors for our relationship with the natural environment. 

“I’ve recently become interested in biodomes and I admit I’m a little bit obsessed with birds. I’ve done a lot of works featuring flora and fauna inside bottles as these vessels suggest a sense of fragility; something we need to care for and be careful with.”

A series of 15 of these newer works have been purchased by the Perth Children’s Hospital and there’s little doubt that viewers of these, and other works by Kati, will again use the word ‘exquisite’ to describe both the technical talent and meaningful imagery of this master printmaker who is also a teller of tales.

To view Kati’s work or get in touch, visit her on Instagram at deeplyetched.