Vivian Pham & Camelia Pham
Camelia Pham - Artist statement
First of all, I’m honoured to be able to collaborate with such a great and young author to produce an art piece that represents such an amazing book. I truly hope that it fosters a wider understanding of our shared Vietnamese heritage to its international readers.
I find that the plot of the book is not just the story of a blossoming and messy romance between Sonny and Vince in suburban Australia, but also its playing out against the backdrop of another culture altogether. I can somewhat empathise with the characters’ prevailing burdens of the past, be it their own or those of their ancestors, the latter of who risked their lives so that the former had the chance to live theirs.
In this essence of time both past and present, I wanted to centralise in my piece the idea of the hourglass. At the top of the hourglass, the incense bowl (in Vietnamese, the bát hương) represents Sonny’s ancestral past, the lofty idea of a culture she deeply wishes to connect to. At the bottom, a trampoline, where Sonny spends so much of her time contemplating problems very much in the here and now.
This hourglass, the symbol of how past feeds into present, lies at the heart of Sonny’s and Vince’s fledgling relationship.They sit on either side of the hourglass, their bodies turned away from each other, flanked by the arching coconut trees that began their journey to a new shore. Being the fruit borne from these coconut trees, those that floated to refuge by unthinkably tumultuous tides and circumstances, the coconut children look at each other, sharing a desire to seek their own new pastures.
All in all, I wanted this piece to be a reflection of shared heritage. Having wanted to get out of my country to study abroad since I was 12, I have long felt the need to flee the nest in order to feel more whole. However, after 7 years of staying in Europe, I find it harder and harder to determine exactly what it is that I call my home.
In this way, I feel like one of the coconut children myself.