Kati Thamo in Maramures, Northern Romania, 2010.Go Anywhere is Going Somewhere

Kati Thamo by Annette Davis
If you’re inclined to think about philanthropy as an investment with future dividends, then printmaker Kati Thamo is an excellent example of what can be achieved. In 2008 Kati was the first recipient of an Artsource Go Anywhere residency, and she continues to honour that investment through her art practice and exhibitions.

The Go Anywhere grant is all about the artist and what they want to do to feed their practise. There is no time limit and there is no requirement that they will produce work or an exhibition. Raised entirely through Artsource’s philanthropic fundraising efforts, the grants are generous, with amounts of $10,000 or $20,000 available.

For Kati, the freedom to construct her own residency was immensely appealing. “I knew immediately what I wanted to do,” she says. That was to visit the eastern European countries of her heritage. Kati grew up in Perth in a house rich with memories and artifacts such as folk art and embroideries from Hungary, Transylvania and Romania. Kati’s aunt entranced her with stories of these places, nurturing Kati’s curiosity and passion for story telling through her art. The Go Anywhere residency enabled Kati to travel for 14 weeks to visit the locations of some of the stories from her childhood, as well as soak up the Eastern European aesthetic.

Kati Thamo, Turn Around (detail) 2012. Solarplate intaglio, 21 x 51 cm.“The thing I most valued about this journey was that I was not expected to have an immediate outcome."

"So it was purely experience driven. I was there, I experienced the place, I walked, I spoke to people and just absorbed the whole experience. I saw art of all sorts, from humble folk art, ethnographic artifacts, contemporary art and the full gamut of museums and art galleries. And I just took it all in. If it had been the sort of residency which needed an immediate outcome at the end, I would have had to structure it all differently – grabbing an idea early on and with my head down, just developing it.”

Kati’s previous artist-in-residence experiences, at the Fremantle Arts Centre and for the Printmaking Association of WA, had specific printmaking outcomes. A 2009 grant from the Department of Culture and the Arts was directed entirely to the making of bronze sculptures to accompany a print exhibition in Canberra. In contrast, the Go Anywhere grant has, in Kati’s words, “given me the space to roam, both on the ground and in my mind.”

Having not travelled overseas since childhood, and again not since her Go Anywhere residency, the memories of the 2010 trip remain extremely vivid for Kati. “I can easily conjure up the memory of being in the places I visited,” she says. “It remains a parallel reality which I carry around in me.”

Audiences in Perth, Melbourne and Tasmania, as well as in her hometown of Albany, have all enjoyed artworks by Kati that have been directly influenced by her residency. “Chasing Shadows”, Kati’s 2012 exhibition at Turner Galleries, Perth, will be shown in Melbourne in October 2013. And Kati’s “parallel reality” will offer narratives and imagery to the development of a major body of work that Kati is embarking on, employing a range of printmaking techniques.

Annette Davis is an artist and freelance curator. During the past two decades she has managed arts projects in Perth, Kununurra, Karratha and Albany, where she currently lives.

This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Winter 2013.