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.
Excerpt – The Game 2010, oil 120x190cm
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.
Ironically, he was already painting pictures of babies in a series called ‘Dong Bao’.
"I wasn’t thinking about babies in the literal sense. It was purely coincidental" says Pham when asked if he had babies on his mind during the process.
Neither humour, irony nor babies was on the mind of the 29-year-old artist during the production of ‘Dong Bao’.
Heavy Traffic 2010 oil, 120x190cm
Pham gew up in a liberal household with journalist parents who regularly ended up in heavy political discussions. Pham remembers these as a kind of ongoing social commentary on the state of Vietnam. Like his journalist parents Pham grew to develop a strong desire to voice his ideas and ideals – albeit instead of a pen, he chose a brush.
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.
Yes We Can 2010 oil 100x150cm
To read the full article grab Habitus issue 13 available now.
Tags: Hanoi, Malaysia, old, Veitnam