[Mending Years, 2023.06.28-07.12, Gallery L0, JCCAC] Winsome Wong stands by an artistic method that highlights an open-journey of discovery, whereby life, relations, conversations and the search for forms are one integral whole. Reading her father’s recollection of his own parents’ tough livelihood in the 1960s-80s, Winsome also thickens her family story with the place of writing that has always been at work. Her response to father’s piece: realization comes after the completion of an art work, perhaps? – editor’s notes「縫補歲月」這展覽，為何會說到黃慧心父親的寫作？正因為藝術創作不單是作品的完成，同時可以或更加是創作的過程和延伸。發問的行動和帶關注的好奇心，刷新了黃慧心的創作模式，由攝影、拍錄像到閱讀和整理默默躺存的家庭照片簿，到影像和關係的現場物理化，重新發現文字在這個策問、追尋、創作過程中的隱藏能量。以下是黃慧心讀了父親書寫後的延伸論述：發現在創作之後。-- 編者序
**feature image: family photo: Winsome Wong, Grandma, Father All images in the post, courtesy of the artist Winsome Wong
After the exhibition started, I talked with my father about the reactions and feelings of friends who read his articles. He smiled lightly and said that he had not thought too much about it. He was not self-conscious about how detailed and emotional he wrote. He simply wrote directly what he recalled of his experiences. As for the length of the piece, he smiled and said it just grew with his reminiscences. He didn’t ask for a lot: after my asking, he said that he would be so happy as long as the piece could be printed out and the pages stapled into a few copies of a booklet that he could share with a few friends.
Every time I am part of an exhibition, I will do my best to invite him. Although my works could sometimes be a bit abstract to him, he would still come to have a look. Even if we may not be able to discuss a lot, I will treat it as he and I visiting someone’s show together, like going to a new place to share a new experience – even if I don't know what he thinks. When I showed him my friends’ poems, he said he found them abstract and difficult to appreciate. I think this is probably why he writes the way he does, and it is also the reason why I like to read his writing. It is straightforward without a lot of decoration and design, and it is what it is.
When I was a child, my grandma suffered a stroke and was unable to move around. She often needed to go to different check-ups and day care homes, so my parenets decided that my mother would go out to work, and my father would stay at home to take care of me, my elder brother and my grandma. It is also more convenient for him who knows Chinese to follow up on the children’s school work. In those days, my father made his income by writing manuscripts at home, sometimes they were his own creation submitted to newspapers, and most of the time they were assignments, such as digesting different contents into a single article, and he even wrote novels for others.
One time, when I was in primary school, we had to propose a poem for group recitation in an inter-class competition. It seemed that the chosen poem, of my selection, was actually written by him. I still remember the phrase "embracing the sun, laughing ha-ha-ha." Now that I think about it, it's actually quite powerful – to be able to compose a poem for elementary school students means that one has to walk in their shoes. And I had always taken great interest in his articles in newspapers. For a while in primary school, other than reading the entertainment page for news about my idols, I would also turn to the columns to look for which one of Father’s articles had been published, and whether I was ever mentioned. I was most proud that time when he got a piece that covered the entire page in the Ming Pao Supplement: it was about me, a primary school kid, and what idols meant to me. Even in shorter in pieces, I was always excited finding myself or my family members in them, whether published or not. Even now, I am able to remember those bits. And I have to confess my sense of guilt here: when I was in junior high school, I began to know where he stored his manuscripts on the computer, so sometimes I would secretly read his manuscripts, especially the novels he wrote for others. I was probably the only reader of a novel of his that never got published. I forgot whether he let me read it in the end or not, but anyway, I must have read it secretly.
After a while, my grandmother was officially moved into a nursing home, and the income from writing articles was not very good, so he also switched to other industries, which required more physical labor. Since then, he did not write much, but he still maintains the habit of reading books. In the advanced years of my secondary school, there was an increasing number of reports to write for school assignments. Slow in writing directly on a computer, I would seek help from Father so would input my manuscripts as a computer file – and that probably was the only occasion that kept him typing after he stopped writing. I once asked him if he would like to write again. He suggested vaguely that he used to use his brain too much, and hoped to do something that didn’t require too much thinking. At that time, I probably thought he was a bit negative, but now that I think about it, he started to submit manuscripts since he was in middle school (and the dated newspaper clippings are still neatly preserved), and he had persisted in writing for a long time. And that is something.
Originally, I thought I was quite familiar with my deceased grandmother. Because of this exhibition, I casually asked my father whether my grandmother had worked part-time. As always, my father vaguely uttered that my grandmother also worked for a period of time to help support the family, but my further advancing for more details was always frustrating. And this new fact troubled me: I have always taken it for granted that my grandma had always been a full-time housewife, until a few years after she passed away. Grandma and I chatted a lot when she was alive, but she mentioned not even once that she had taken jobs outside home. Now this gap is being filled, and I remain puzzled, especially about Grandpa and Father’s reticence, far more than Grandma’s. (For example, it took a long time in my chat with my grandpa to just I realize that my grandma used to play mahjong with friends, and even meet up across the harbor. I suppose as far as I have been around them, Grandma had limited mobility, and I couldn’t even imagine her having friends.) I also tried different kinds of questions repeatedly without finding out much. At most, I know some raw information such as the location of her workplace. I really want to know how my grandma felt during those days, but when I asked my grandpa, he said that there was nothing happy or unhappy, probably he was the grandpa who lived in such a direct way, and I should ask no one.
For a while, I gave up asking questions, and it was not until later that it occurred to me that it would better to ask my father to write down what he knew, including various geographical locations, which might be more accurate than vague recalling in casual conversations. As well, it would a great chance to read my father’s writing again. Father gently agreed to write and promised me that he could give it to me within two weeks. One day I called him, and he said that he took a day off to write this article. At that time, I was a little surprised and also touched that he would do so. Then one morning, I received an email from him with his article attached. I felt that I hadn’t read his writing for a long time. It seemed that after I grew up, having learned different types of writing (although not many), I returned to the original contact when I was a child. His writing is familiar but I need a little warm-up. The first time I read it, I can’t help thinking, is this what I read when I was a child? When I read it for the second time, I can let go of all queries from my childhood memories, Now I could freely enter his world, and see things from his eyes as a child -- the appearance of his parents and adults around him, their manners and countenances.
As for my grandmother's feelings at that time, it seems that I got some kind of an answer through my father's words. My father's writing has set a little distance, but for me, there is a certain kind of delicateness and tenderness. The past that my grandpa and grandma would't mention seems to make me understand better the father that I have known through the years.
(English translation by Linda Lai)