In a Digital Age, Print Artist Layers Tactile Textures and Tradition

In a world oversaturated with mass-produced images, print artist Marine Ky rekindles a love for the tactile.

In the 23 vibrant pieces in the exhibition “Optical Screens & The Earth,” the artist transforms textile into prints, transporting age-old traditions of lacemaking and engraving into the present.

Prints by Marine Ky from the exhibition 'Optical Screens & The Earth'
Prints by Marine Ky from the exhibition ‘Optical Screens & The Earth’

“I’m using the techniques of printmaking to expand on the themes of optical screen,” said Ms. Ky, whose exhibition is showing at Phnom Penh’s Meta House. “It is about the image but it is trying to break through what you see.”

In each piece, there is an intricate work of meticulously layered detail. “It makes you enter into another world, a world of awareness because of the attention you’re paying when you’re looking at it,” she said.

The collection spans 15 years of the Phnom Penh-born artist’s career, showcasing diverse themes, textures and techniques, while drawing on a range of historical and cultural references.

The earliest, dated 2000, includes Andy Warhol-inspired self-portraits made of felt. The most recent draw on digital pixels: what appears to be mechanical repetition of dots reveals individuality, each shape embossed with a different texture.

“When you look at it very closely, you may be very surprised there’s texture in that—it’s organic,” Ms. Ky said.

Somewhat autobiographically, her works merge Western traditions with Asian influences. Born in 1966, Ms. Ky left the country during the 1970s and studied printmaking in Australia.

“I returned to Cambodia in the early 2000s. Around that time, it was obvious that there was a revival of the engraving technique,” Ms. Ky said. “Also, it corresponds to my own experience of discovering my grandmother’s heritage.”

Ms. Ky incorporates textiles into her works through several techniques, for example, using wax to transfer lace onto copper plates to turn them into stencils.

“You can build up layers upon layers,” she said.

And in re-contextualizing the motifs, Ms. Ky re-sensitizes the viewers to appreciate the craft of each culture, imperiled by the deluge of images and information in the modern age.

“I think it’s nice to use these works to talk about the whole reality of a ‘woman’s craft’ that has been forgotten a little…and seen as handicraft but not really elevated to the level of fine art,” she said.

The exhibit runs until June 28.

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