Artist Pham Huy Thong – Hanoi, Vietnam
This month in Habitus issue 13 you’d be forgiven for thinking that Vietnamese artist, Pham Huy Thong’s ‘Dong Bao’ series is all baby talk. But the truth, as Amy Ng finds out, lies much deeper than the paintings let on
Pham Huy Thong had no idea that his wife was expecting a baby when it was time for him to head off to Malaysia for a 3-month residency at Rimbun Dahan, an artist residency conceived by Hijjas and Angela Kasturi that’s set in the verdant green kampungs on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Neither humour, irony nor babies was on the mind of the 29-year-old artist during the production of ‘Dong Bao’.
As one of his most successful collections to date, ‘Dong Bao’ was based on the story of the origins of the Vietnamese people, and the title of the series is translated to mean “from the same womb”. Legend has it that a long time ago, a dragon from the sea took a mountain fairy as his wife. The couple gave birth to 100 men and women who were believed to be the first people of Vietnam – hence the term, ‘born from the same womb’. The paintings in the series consist of babies to signify these proverbial people, and most importantly, umbilical cords that link them to one another.