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Skilled printmaker scratches his way to success

Prom Putvisal
Prom Putvisal works on a stone printing block in his studio. KIMBERLEY MCCOSKER

Skilled printmaker scratches his way to success

Prom Putvisal, 28, is one of only a handful of Cambodian artists who use printmaking to realise their work. A selection of his prints is currently on show as part of the Asia Foundation’s second exhibition: Open City, Open Mind. Harriet Fitch Little and Vandy Muong stopped by his studio earlier this week

Printmaking and etching aren’t common techniques in Cambodia. Where did you learn?

In 2011, there was a teacher who came from Mexico named Fernando Aceves Humana, who came to the Royal University of Fine Arts to give a workshop in this technique. I’ve been taking part in his training workshops ever since.

What are the challenges of etching?

When I first started to draw on copper, it was very different from drawing on paper. It can take up to a week to prepare one copper plate that you then use to make the prints, and you need to be careful not to make mistakes. Drawing on copper is difficult, because you’re dealing with acid and chemical product like yellow powder [ferric chloride] which can really affect
the lungs.

What different techniques do you use?

There are three main styles. We do etchings using copper plates, etchings using plastic plates, and then also stone prints – where we draw on a stone with pencil and use it as a stamp. I’m taking an example of each to the exhibition at the Asia Foundation, so people can know about the range of things we have in Cambodia.

The exhibition’s theme is Open City, Open Mind. What image of the city have you tried to convey in your work?

I took the theme of the exhibition and used my imagination to think about how I would want the city to look. The most special thing in my work is the materials I use, but I also want to show to the audience my views of an environmental
city, where as well as motorbikes and buildings, there are trees and open space.

Do you work in any styles aside from printmaking?

I’m a painting teacher and I have made several illustrated books before, because I used to work for some NGOs who helped children. In the future, I plan to turn the prints I am making now into a book as well.

Open City, Open Mind is on show until June 11 at The Asia Foundation’s Community Art Gallery, #59 Street 242

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