LETTERS TO SUK-FONG / SCROLLS

Scroll 1
scrolls2
SCROLL 2 FATHER
SCROLL 2 LAI FONG
SCROLL 3 – GIN-CHEUNG
SCROLL 4 – SNOW
scrolls3

Scrolls

父字 / Father’s Words
Paul Wong, 2019
30” x 102”
digital print on canvas wall scroll

Lai-Fong
Paul Wong, 2019
30” x 102”
digital print on canvas wall scroll

Gin-Cheung
Paul Wong, 2019
30” x 102”
digital print on canvas wall scroll

Snow’s 13-page letter, 1994
Paul Wong, 2019
16” x 181” and 12” x 136”
digital print on canvas table scroll

Four scrolls were featured in 淑芳你好嘛 (Suk-Fong Nay Ho Mah) / Suk-Fong, How Are You?. Each scroll highlights letters written to Suk-Fong. A sense of desperation is read in between the lines representing the writers’ hopes and dreams. The letters in the scrolls are in their original Chinese overlaid with English. 

The Father’s Words, Lai-Fong, and Gin-Cheung scrolls are hung on the wall as a triptych. Father’s Words are three letters written over a period of 9 years from 1964 to 1973. He is Suk-Fong’s father, who was a banker, goldsmith, merchant, and landowner before the communist revolution. His land, businesses, and wealth were seized during the land reforms of the 1950s. His legs were broken in politically-motivated beatings during the years he was incarcerated in a re-education prison. In his letters, he often talks about his painful foot injuries, and the ongoing need for rare and expensive Chinese medicines. Perhaps in fear of government censorship, his internationally-destined letters were carefully worded, often emphasizing the much simpler life that now existed in the new People’s Republic of China. This scroll features a photograph of Mr. Chen in a winter coat from approximately the 1970s.

The Lai-Fong scroll features two letters from Suk-Fong’s youngest sister in 1973.  The letters are addressed to Susan Wong, which is Suk-Fong’s anglo-name. The photograph is of Lai-Fong, and one of her three sons. The first is a mournful letter reporting their father’s death. The second letter reports on the logistics and expenses of the funeral procedures, and praises Suk-Fong for her financial support from overseas. These letters emphasize the reality of hardship endured by Suk-Fong’s immediate family in China.

The Gin-Cheung scroll features two letters from Suk-Fong’s brother. In a letter from 1980, Gin-Cheung, hopeful of immigrating from China to Canada, reports on the lifting of government restrictions, and refers to a previous letter written 22 years earlier in 1958, where he was punished, ridiculed, labeled a rightist, and sent to labour reform camps. This explains the true meaning behind his desperate plea for support back then. The photograph of Gin-Cheung is from the 1960s.

Snow’s 13-page letter, 1994 was presented on a Chinese scholar’s desk as a table scroll. In this densely written 13-page letter, Suk-Fong’s niece Snow recounts her life story of unfortunate events, wasted opportunities, and abuse from her incestuous and murderous husband. Despite this, she overcame these hardships and pursued a career in medicine. This scroll features various photographs of Snow and family members.


 

This work was part of Occupying Chinatown, Paul Wong’s year long residency at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Classical Garden. To see the rest of the works  visit:

occupyingchinatown.com