Pheany Ban was born in Fairfield NSW in 1989. Her parents migrated in 1983 fleeing from a war-torn Cambodia to seek prospects of freedom and opportunity within the Australian lifestyle. She was raised in Western Sydney with Buddhist traditions by two hardworking parents who started a life with nothing but their hopes and perseverance. There was little money and time for materialism or the Arts and a strong focus on academics.
Pheany’s disconnection with visual culture took a turn during secondary school where her eyes were broadened to the Arts. She turned to the Arts as a form of expression and communication of untold experiences and family history during visual arts electives and the HSC course in 2007. She continued her studies at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW graduating with a Bachelor of Art Theory in 2011 and completed a Certificate IV in Applied Fashion Design and Technology at TAFE, SWSI in 2012. Over the next few years, Pheany continued to develop her practice by volunteering at the Blacktown Arts Centre and completing ceramic and drawing courses at various community colleges. It was not until she completed a Certificate III in Education Support, Open Colleges NSW in 2018 and started working as a student learning support officer, that she decided to enrol in the Masters of Secondary Teaching (Visual Arts) at Charles Sturt University which she is currently completing.
Pheany’s practice stems from the ability of the Arts to connect and teach. Her work extends to various mediums and is usually determined by the theme or brief of each individual project. Her interest lies in developing community art projects and programs within Western Sydney, particularly with youth. Pheany is considering art therapy for future development in her career.
Through dress we masquerade, a cost, a shape, an aesthetic, a creed. Through Sompot we connect.
My chosen object from the Chifley Home Museum was the sewing machine, manufactured by White during the 1950s, which was likely expensive and used for domestic repairs and household furnishings by Mrs Chifley. The sewing machine strikes a different chord in my family history and I have connected with the object by using it to create the body of work.
Sompot is a variation of the traditional Cambodian outfit made from stitching fabric remnants and scraps with an industrial straight sewer, industrial overlocker and domestic sewing machine. The pattern of Sompot adheres to key design features of the dress commonly worn on Cambodian formal occasions such as temple visits or weddings. The fabric is unorthodox; comprised of the excess and waste similar to that produced by the fashion house industry, migrant outworker locations and garment factories within Australia from the 1970s onwards. The Khmer handwriting marks the descriptions of the interviews conducted with my parents about their early years after migrating to Australia and their dependence on and ongoing connection to the sewing machine. The text is written in red, symbolising the Khmer Rouge, which resulted in my parents’ migration to Australia and the use of fabric off-cuts and tatters are reminiscent of the poverty experienced by survivors of the brutal regime.
Sompot embodies the ghost of a wearer and a lack of resolution. It marks the cons of the fashion industry and the pros of the opportunities it has provided for my family. It adheres to traditions and yet pushes and pulls with new cultures. It tells a story about a family’s past but is interpreted through a foreign lens. It reminds us of the garments we currently wear and the sufferings of those miles away past and present.