It’s the year 1948. Vietnamese Diem Phung Thi has just arrived in France, where she would eventually divert from a background in dentistry to a remarkable career in the art of sculpting. Diem remains one of Vietnam’s most celebrated masters of art, almost two decades after her death. Up to this very day, she is the only Vietnamese sculptor named in the Larousse Dictionary of Twentieth Century History.
Diem’s works are exhibited in many locations, in different ways — in a museum dedicated to her in her hometown Hue, in France where she spent most of her life, and in the book ‘Nghe Thuat Diem Phung Thi’, among others.
To continue honoring the artistic life and achievements of Diem Phung Thi, The Factory Contemporary Arts Center has collaborated with French-born Laure Chevallier, the co-founder of creative agency The Lab and the innovative mind behind patisserie BAKES, to recreate Diem’s renowned artwork “Ni Cô” (A Nun) through — believe it or not — pastry! The result: a dark chocolate delight mimicking wood, covering coconut mousse and raspberry sauce inside, with the head brushed with copper and gold powder.
Vietcetera sits down with the BAKES team to hear their thoughts on this one-of-a-kind art and pastry integration.
Brief description of Diem's biography and her work
Diem Phung Thi (1920-2002) was one of the rare Vietnamese female artists with international recognition. She was renowned for her ingenious invention of the seven modules, which were then blown up, scaled-down, molded in different materials to create semi-abstract, visually interesting sculptures. Her modules were also adapted into furniture, accessories and jewelry by the artist herself. A collection of her work is currently presented at The Factory Contemporary Art Center.
The parallels of the two women
Diem Phung Thi left Vietnam for France and brought the former's influences to her work in the latter. Laure Chevallier left France for Vietnam and brought her love of French pastries to the Southeast Asian country.
Why this sculpture? Why this pastry?
Beginning with an idea shared by The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, BAKES was inspired to create a custom-pastry called Om based on the artwork “Ni Cô (A Nun)” by the late artist Diem Phung Thi. We were drawn to Ni Cô (A Nun) because of its simplicity and evocative power. Somehow, squares and circles not only conjure the image of a nun, but also ideas of peace, serenity, and thought. Our intention was to respect the original materials and shapes and surprise the audience with our ingredients and craft.
The marble sphere head is recreated with chocolate bonbon with a marble blue chocolate and copper powder, to give the depth and color variation found in natural stones. The wooden body is made with a coconut mousse with layers of raspberry jelly and enveloped in dark chocolate, hand-brushed to mimic aged wood textures.
Diem Phung Thi's sculptures is exhibited at The Factory Contemporary Arts Center from March 13 to June 6, 2021, and the limited-edition pastry named Om will be available at BAKES from May 20 to June 6.
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