My brother was the JESTER —
he could make people laugh,
but I was the true CLOWN,
miming sadness for sparks.
I met her once.
We hardly spoke two words together.
She “kept house” for her brother,
the brilliant inventor of an artificial crystal
with industrial applications —
the sample on the coffee table
was like a brute chunk of unstained glass.
Silence was her relentless trademark.
She loved, once.
Was jilted, once.
Her heart in that sense was broken for good —
what more could she possibly want from the world?
Her needs were small —
Bedroom. Bathroom. Kitchen. —
and were largely invisible to anyone not herself.
This was her bitter better discovery:
a vast grave universe we can’t/don’t want,
and she, in her other wisdom, a chip of quartz
not keeping —
Now all I know is
that her mute declaration of complete independence
comes (if we’re lucky) to the rest of us anyway
Then the question becomes:
Can we learn in the time we have left on this Earth
what to do for ourselves with her heartending prize?
原文：Martin Booth, Gweilo (2004)
This essay by Hong Kong writer 洪麗芳 Charis Hung Lai-fong celebrates a wonderful and forward-thinking independent bookshop run by Stephanie Chung in Sai Kung. It is called 神話書店 in Chinese, or Mythology Books, but its official English name is Dionysus Books. You can find it at G/F, 17 Sai Kung Tai Street [西貢大街17號地下]. You can visit their Instagram site here.
This essay as first published in the fourteenth issue of Cantonese-language magazine, 《迴響》 Resonate, in August 2021. You can visit their website here, and their Facebook page here for more information about writing in Cantonese.
You can find more writing by Charis Hung on Medium.
When I’d made the long-drawn out journey (this is no joke — I live in the remote north-western New Territories and the round trip takes me more than four hours) to Mythology Books in Sai Kung, I found myself standing in front of a rather unobtrusive door-way no bigger than a large window-frame which I could have easily missed and walked on past. I was momentarily assailed by a feeling of uneasiness: don’t tell I was going to leave here with nothing but disappointment? After I’d plucked up the courage to slide open the door, the Chinese expression 別有洞天 (bit yau dung tin, meaning “a hidden but beautiful spot”) written in large characters flashed through my mind. As it turned out, it was actually really roomy inside, and the décor was very stylish. The store taught me two things: that you cannot judge a book by its cover and that you can’t appraise a bookstore from its external appearance!
A “Mythology” Suited to Hong Kong
According to Stephanie, the owner of the store, it was the English name for her shop — Dionysus Books — that she thought of first (Dionysus is the God of Wine in Greek mythology). It was only later that she decided on the Chinese name San Wa (san wa means “mythology” in Cantonese). When, out of curiosity, I asked her if she was a keen on mythology, she told me that she felt that the God of Wine was very applicable to Hong Kong in its current state. This God of Wine was of mixed parentage — half human, half divine — which made it a spirit at the same time both orthodox and sacrilegious. Sometime, he would bring happiness to humanity, while at other times, misery. Nevertheless, under the influence of the God of Wine, people could break free from reality and enter a frenzied realm in which they could finally overcome their fears. On the subject of myths, Stephanie believes that they are a timely reminder: “Owing to the advances in science and technology, we tend to forget that we can’t necessarily explain everything. But does that mean that something is non-existent, just because it lies beyond our understanding? My sense is that science and technology have reached the point where they have become overly dominant.” It is for this reason that Mythology Books has opted not to have a Facebook page. Instead, it uses MeWe in order to resist a state of affairs in which one person alone has all the say. Myths can remind us of just how insignificant we are, and so make us humbler. Stephanie also mentioned another aspect of myths: they can be exploited by governments as tools for the building of nationalisms, taking historical myths and turning them into elements to justify their rule over the people as well as the establishment of collective values. “It’s just like a certain country we know, always going on about how many thousands of years of history it has . . .” It is Stephanie’s hope that the existence of Mythology Books will serve both as encouragement and as an awakening.
From Hong Kong Girl to Bookstore Boss
Stephanie does not have a background in the cultural circles. Nor does she have any connection with the publishing industry. Before she opened her bookstore, she had never previously had anything to do with this line of work. So why did she finally decide to go down the path of the book trade? It was all because of her deep sense of the power of books. At a leisurely pace, she began telling me her own story. “Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved to read, but when it came to choosing which subjects to study at high school, I abandoned what I was interested in and choose Business out of practical considerations. During my time at university, I devoted even less time general reading. After graduation, I worked 9 to 5 for several years at a desk job, but felt very unhappy the whole time. There was such a lot of pressure. As a result, when it came to holidays, I would go on a spending-spree as a way of getting my own back, dressing up and buying things by the truckload — your typical Hong Kong girl. One day, I suddenly had this urge to start reading again, and so began re-reading a book I had once enjoyed so much, Dream of the Red Chamber. I realized that Jia Baoyu’s not wanting to sit the exams for the sake of wealth and glory was a rebellion against the establishment, and so I really got a lot out of the story. I read one book after another, and every day when I went to work all I really wanted to do was get back to my reading. Finally, I made up my mind to quit my job and have a go at doing something I really wanted to do.” After undergoing the “baptism” of 2019, Stephanie saw with even greater clarity just how important books can be. In her view, books can help people to think, containing an unlimited number of solutions and so can provide us with outlooks as well as guidance.
“When we read a history book, we can remove ourselves a little bit, and not get so completely wrapped up in what happens to be going on at that particular moment. Our moods are no longer so grey and disheartened, and our horizons can broaden out.” Having been thus enlightened by books, Stephanie finally became the boss of a bookstore in 2021, a store which offers — based on the above-mentioned reasons — mainly books in the areas of history, literature and the social sciences.
When, out of curiosity, I asked her if she was a keen on mythology, she told me that she felt that the God of Wine was very applicable to Hong Kong in its current state. This God of Wine was of mixed parentage — half human, half divine — which made it a spirit at the same time both orthodox and sacrilegious. Sometime, he would bring happiness to humanity, while at other times, misery. Nevertheless, under the influence of the God of Wine, people could break free from reality and enter a frenzied realm in which they could finally overcome their fears.
A Bookstore Imbued to the Full with Environmental Thinking
The book-shelves and décor items found in Mythology Books are things that they have brought from home or that other people have given to them, making it quite unconventional in comparison to many other places where the furnishings are all brand-new. Stephanie told me that she once helped a Sai Kung district councillor run for election and so got to know many friends who shared her views and aspirations. In addition, when she opened the shop, quite a number of local people in the neighbourhood came and gave her a hand. The clock and the sewing machine (it now serves as a reading desk) in the corner to the right of the main entrance are over a hundred years old. And before it became a bookshop, this was a general store run by the grandmother of Stephanie’s husband on his father’s side. The store’s old sign-board still hangs on the wall — 金利源 Kam Lee Yuen (meaning “Source of Fortune and Advantage”) — giving a real sense of carrying on a family tradition. A certain amount of seating has been set aside in the shop for readers to take a rest and browse, making it extremely cosy. Stephanie comments that things don’t have to be new for them to be good, it being so very easy to find second-hand furniture in Hong Kong. Looking after the environment is actually not as hard as you might imagine it to be.
The Diversity of Independent Bookstores
Stephanie shared with me something of her experiences involving making the bookstore available to various local organizations as a venue for events every now and then. It is her hope that — given its lack of available venues — Mythology Books can provide a space in which people with similar values can come together and coalesce. Such people may also have links with other small business operating in Sai Kung, so they can give one another mutual support, possibly leading to further co-operation. Laughing, Stephanie said to me: “Actually, before 2019, we weren’t at all like this. For many Sai Kung people back then, Sai Kung was just the place where you slept, and we were not really very interested about what was going on in the district. From Monday to Friday, we would all go off to work, while on our days off we would either head out very early in the morning and return late at night, or we would spend the whole time tucked up at home just to avoid all the visitors from elsewhere. But nowadays, people have really integrated into their district and, almost without realizing it, now have another very close connection in their lives.” This is probably true for many people in Hong Kong. It is hoped that in future, bookstores will go on organizing reading groups and, if this remains possible, they could also arrange film screenings or invite writers to come and give a talk, with bookshops functioning as a collective space. As Stephanie mentioned, one advantage independent bookstores have over traditional ones is that their operations can be more diverse, not just selling books but also engaging in a range of other activities, bringing out more — and more precious — voices and creating different kinds of influences.
The Book Trade Will Not Decline
Stephanie remarked that when she first decided to open a bookstore, a lot of people weren’t too keen on the idea — only her husband supported her. She herself, however, was quite optimistic: “I wasn’t too worried. I always thought that as the situation grew worse in Hong Kong, more people would want to read. It really is the case that more young people are going to bookshops, hoping to find answers in a book.” Stephanie went on to add that, although there is plenty of information on the internet, it tends to be too fragmentary, giving books a reason to exist, a reason now even more important than ever. I asked her about whether she had any concerns regarding a political investigation (as I was writing this piece, the police had just arrested five people from the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists for publishing the “Sheep Village” series of illustrated children’s books). Stephanie replied that she couldn’t think that far ahead, and that the books in her shop would remain on the shelves — they hadn’t been banned, so why would there be any problem? “I don’t want to carry out my own self-investigation,” she said, and throughout our conversation you could sense her passionate conviction, not the fiery kind but a sort of ardour that still believes that it is possible to change some things in the world. At the same time — just like many other bookstore owners I have interviewed in the past — Stephanie believes that working in the book trade is something permeated with love rather than competitiveness. “We all give publicity to one another, and we all help each other out. Quite a number of bookstore owners were willing to give me a lot of practical advice — me, a complete beginner. Even the distributors were more than willing to spend time with me, answering my questions.”
Some time after recondite midnight,
naked in the backyard,
I confront the brilliant broad band of the whole Milky Way
with the narrow scope and fibre
of my nerves.
Mosquitoes that feast
on fingers and toes
enjoy nothing of this star-time underneath the Southern Cross
the way I do. For instants
I come keenly to life across a tingling bodybreathscape
in a silken Summer breeze
that works from without
physique’s long-dormant field
and wakes up overcast skin to its intergalactic whorl.
My blood-cells spinning in orbit
from fingerprint to thumbprint,
I am all the laws of physics in one place —
hospitable Vital Bible of the spark.
She sits in the Dôme, the Coupole
writing letters to Soldat Sartre:
. . . pourquoi la conscience humaine
. . . why would the human conscience
contruisait un monde
construct a world
avec des données et des distances et des masses
with givens and distances and masses
qui ne soit pas à la mésure de l’homme?
which are not based on the human scale?
Things are big in all the wrong ways, demeaning us.
Riding on her bicycle through a Paris grey as Occupation
she asks herself:
Qu’est-ce que c’est qu’une guerre?
But what is war?
Compassion, fashion: she neglects neither.
She describes the new turban she has bought,
in love with love and the tender language of description.
She professes herself content with
cette chance merveilleuse
this marvellous good luck
d’être dans le même monde
to be in the same world
as this man she loves.
許寶強 Hui Po-keung, a professor at Lingnan University, was arrested earlier this month on the charge of “collusion with foreign forces”, a nebulous accusation the Chinese Communist Party regularly uses to bully anyone with the courage to act as a human being and not a tool. Actually, he was part of group that ran “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund”, a fund that helped arrested protesters pay for their legal and medical bills.
In this video from 2013, he addresses a different kind of bullying, this time associated with 恐同 or homophobia, and talks briefly about “emotional education” as a way of tackling the predicament. Generously, he suggests:
That is, that the fears and anxieties at the root of bullying behaviour can be put down to the fact that society is still not perfect.
There are no great grammatical conundrums in Hui’s presentation, but watch out for the various structures he makes use of, including 或多或少 = to a greater or lesser extent and 唔單止 = not only. At 2:18 he employs 之所以, which means something like “the reason why”. And so 你哋之所以受排斥或者係欺凌 becomes in English “the reason why you are excluded or bullied”.
He also makes use of 到dóu3*2, a verb particle used to indicate “accomplishment or successful completion of an action” (Matthews & Yip: Cantonese, Chapter 11). So, at 0:51, you’ll hear 直接處理到 = “directly tackle” (with the implication of success in the endeavour), followed soon after by 放低到呢一種恐懼同埋焦慮嘅情緒, which means something like “to let go of this mood of fear and anxiety”.
Finally, at 2:46, you’ll hear 使到, an unusual (perhaps more literary) way of expression causation.
You can also add to your vocabulary with the following items: 女性主義者 néuih5 sing3 jyú2 yih6 jé2 = a feminist; 粗魯 chōu1 lóuh5 = rough; rude; boorish; 變體 bian3 taai3 = abnormal; anomalous; 受害者 sauh6 hoih6 jé2 = a victim; 欺凌 hēi1 lìhng4 = to bully & humiliate; and 改善 gói2 sihn6 = to improve; to ameliorate.
Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in both Standard Written Chinese and English). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.
Caption: 許寶強 | 大學教授
西蒙波娃等等嘅女性主義者 | 或者係佛洛依德，呃，呢一種嘅重要嘅心理學家嘅研究呢 | 佢哋會覺得同性戀嘅傾向呢，或多或少每個人都有一啲嘅 | 啫，一個男生可能會，呃，當然有時會好粗魯或者係好大意 [呢] | 但係同時亦都冇得排（除）佢有啲時候可能好細心、好溫柔嘅 | 噉因此佢唔係一個變體嘅現象，甚至可能係一個常態
如果要，啫，有效處理呢個問題呢 | 我哋可能同時要，呃，引入一種，呃，情感嘅教育 [啦] | 有效嘅情感嘅教育 | 呢種情感教育呢，應該會，呃，能夠，呃，直接處理到 | 甚至呢，可以，呃，幫助我哋嘅教師或者學生喺學校裏邊呢，係放低到呢一種恐懼同埋焦慮嘅情緒
● 女性主義者 néuih5 sing3 jyú2 yih6 jé2 = a feminist | ● 傾向 kīng1 heung3 = a tendency; an inclination; a deviation | ● 粗魯 chōu1 lóuh5 = rough; rude; boorish | ● 大意 daaih6 yi3 = careless; negligent; inattentive | ● 細心 sai3 sām1 = careful; attentive | ● 溫柔 wān1 yàuh4 = gentle & soft | ● 變體 bin3 taai3 = abnormal; anomalous | ● 常態 sèuhng4 taai3 = normality; normal behaviour or conditions | ● 引入 yáhn5 yahp6 = ① to lead into; to draw into ② to introduce from elsewhere | ● 教師 gaau3 sī1 = a teacher | ● 恐懼 húng2 geuih6 = ① frightened ② fear; dread
Caption: Hui Po-keung | University Professor
Both feminists such as Simone de Beauvoir and Sigmund Freud — that important psychological researcher — were of the opinion that the inclination towards homosexuality was something that everyone had, to a greater or lesser extent. A man might well be . . . of course, sometimes he would be very rough or very careless, but at the same time you couldn’t rule out [排] that sometimes he could be very attentive, gentle, tender. For this reason, then it is not an abnormal phenomenon. It could even be [our] normal state.
Caption: Homosexuality is Normal
If we want to handle this issue effectively, we will at the same time have to bring in a kind of emotional education. An effective emotional education — this kind of education of the emotions, should be able to handle [this issue] directly. It might even be able to help students and teachers in schools to let go of [放低] their fears and anxieties.
【1:00】其實受害者唔單止係被欺凌嘅同學呢 | 同時係欺凌者或者係，呃，呢一種，呃，排斥者呢，本身其實都係呢一種恐懼文化或者恐懼情緒嘅受害者 [嚟㗎]
譬如一百年前魯迅先生都曾經講過 | 當佢，呃，針對回應呢個，呃，守節呢一種所謂中國傳統嘅習俗嘅時候呢 | 佢有咁嘅願望呢 | 佢就覺得呢一種守節呢，其實只不過會令人哋產生各種冇意義一啲嘅痛苦啦 | 亦都產生一啲各種嘅暴力或者係，呃，昏迷嘅 | 噉，呃，一百年之後呢，我哋喺今日嘅香港狀況裏邊呢 | 係咪都應該反思吓我哋對呢個恐同現象係咪都係一種造成痛苦嘅一啲，呃，情緒呢？| 如果係嘅話，我哋需要點樣去，呃，正面處理或者係解決呢？
● 受害者 sauh6 hoih6 jé2 = a victim | ● 欺凌 hēi1 lìhng4 = to bully & humiliate | ● 守節 sáu2 jit3 = (of a woman under feudalism) to preserve chastity after the death of her husband | ● 習俗 jaahp6 juhk6 = a custom; a convention | ● 昏迷 fān1 màih4 = a stupor; a coma | ● 反思 fáan2 sī1 = ① to recollect; to think back; to rethink profoundly ② self-examination; introspection; profound consideration
Actually, the victims [of homophobia] are not only the students who are bullied. At the same time, bullies and those who exclude others [排斥者] are themselves victims of this culture of terror or this terrified mood.
Caption: Education Both Bullies & the Bullied with Emotion
For instance, a hundred years ago when [the writer] Mr Lu Xun talked about his wish to respond to [feudal ideas about] chastity for widows — a traditional custom in China. He felt that this chastity for widows actually caused nothing but pointless suffering, as well as both violence and stupor. A hundred years on, with Hong Kong in the state that it is today, shouldn’t we be seriously thinking about [反思] whether [the way we view] homophobia is a mood [情緒] that produces suffering? If this indeed is the case, how should we positively go about handling and solving it?
Caption: 反恐同 | 思教育 | 反思
I AM ME 我係許寳強 | 我想同曾受或者係正受校園欺凌或者係排斥嘅同學講 | 你哋之所以受，呃，排斥或者係欺凌其實唔係由於你自身嘅問題，或者你自己唔好 | [更多可能]係反映排斥或者欺凌者佢哋嘅焦慮或者係恐懼 | 而佢哋嘅焦慮同恐懼好多時係同我哋呢個社會係仲未完美有關嘅 | 噉因此無論你係同志或者係非同志嘅朋友 | 我哋應該一齊去改善呢個社會狀況 | 使到欺凌同排斥唔再喺校園存在
● 曾受 chàhng4 sauh6 = roughly, “ever received/undergone” (Note: 曾 indicates “something ever having happened in the indefinite past” cf. 未 meih6 “something NEVER/NOT YET having happened in the indefinite past” | ● 正受 jing3 sauh6 = roughly, “currently in the process of receiving/undergoing” | ● 自身 jih6 sān1 = self; oneself | ● 改善 gói2 sihn6 = to improve; to ameliorate
These are the topics I am currently concerned about.
Caption: Oppose [反] Homophobia | Think [思] about Education | Rethink Profoundly [反思]
I AM ME I am Hui Po-keung. To any student who has been the subject — or is currently the subject — bullying or exclusion at school — I would like to say: the reason why you are being excluded or bullied is actually not because of anything to do with you personally [唔係由於你自身嘅問題] or because you are not any good. It more probably reflects the anxieties and fears of those doing the excluding or bullying. And most of the time, their anxieties and fears are connected to this society of ours still not being perfect. For this reason, regardless of whether you are gay or not, we should all work together to improve conditions in this society, so that bullying and exclusion in schools is stopped [唔再 … 存在].
It is not necessarily grammar or vocabulary that can make Cantonese difficult: it’s naturalness. Understandably, language tends to be idealized in textbooks and dictionaries: we are given a picture of what it should be, not what it is, just to make it learn-able. In a wonderful book on self-study I picked up in a bookshop in Sheung Shui, the writer (白取春彥Haruhiko Shiratori) memorably pointed out that people who study a language often aspire to being able to chat casually with the locals about everyday topics. This however is the Mount Everest of language learning, the almost unattainable goal. Why? Mainly because real people use language in a natural way, without regard for correct syntax, exact meanings, completeness, logic, or standard pronunciation.
This video about two painters who go out to paint from nature and, by sheer coincidence, wind up depicting the same scene illustrates this point. 黃進曦 Stephen Wong Chun-hei (an individual who often appears on this site) is his usual, lucid self. His partner-in-art 楊學德 Yeung Hok-tak, however, is a very different proposition. This is partly to do with his way of expressing himself, which tends to be choppy. He also uses quite a lot of fillers, including 咁樣, 呃, 其實, 啫係. Finally, apart from a general slurry quality, he also modifies the pronunciation of certain words, such as 嗰個 go2 go3, which becomes an indeterminate *go. In ordinary speech, you will discover other instances of such modification. For instance, 其實 becomes *kei’a; 嗰陣時 becomes *gon si; 就係 becomes *jai; 即係 becomes *je; while 咁樣 turns into *gam’eung. Another example that recently struck me in a different video was *yeje; eventually, after comparing a number of instances, I worked out that the modified phrase had to be 又或者!
One minor but interesting grammar point here involves the formation of questions with the positive and negative forms of the verb. You commonly encounter this in the cases of 有冇 = have/have not and 係咪 is/is not (咪 maih6 is a contraction of 唔係). Modal verbs made up of two characters do something special: when 可以 = “can” is combined with its negative form 唔可以, we get 可唔可以. Similarly, 應該 = “ought” turns into 應唔應該. Compound adjectives can also be handled in this way. When English words are borrowed, they receive the same treatment, often in surprising ways. So, at 1:44, Wong Chun-hei asks 係 O唔OK呢？ = “is it OK?”. Similarly in a recent video from 士多貓貓 StoreMeow, the speaker at 1:52 uses 都唔知自己呢，rea- 唔rea-dy呢 in an indirect question to mean “we didn’t know if we were ready or not”.
Probably my favourite item of Cantonese vocabulary in this presentation is the noun 宅叔 jaahk6 sūk1, which means something like “a middle-aged man who stays at home most of the time”. It is derived from 宅男 jaahk6 nàahm4, which also carries connotations of unsociability and, according to Sheik Cantonese, “watching TV and playing video games all the time” as well as not caring about personal hygiene. The female version is naturally 宅女 jaahk6 néui5*2. According to Sheik, there is a related term, 隱蔽青年 yán2 bai3 chīng1 nìhn4 = “introvert; introverted youth”. Yeung Hok-tak also makes use of this, but changes it to suit his age: 隱蔽中年, “an introverted middle-aged man”.
There are also plenty of other very noteworthy vocabulary items, including: 玩味 wuhn6 meih6 = to ponder; to ruminate; 曳 yáih5 = naughty; mischievous; 着重 jeuhk6 juhng6 = to stress; to emphasize; 構圖 kau3 tòuh4 = composition (of a picture); 類似 leuih6 chíh5 = similar; analogous; 直頭 jihk6 tàuh4 = directly, simply, completely, truly; straight head; 偏向 pīn1 heung3 = to be partial to; 刺激 chi3 gīk1 = a stimulus; 溝 kāu1 = to mix; and 驚喜 gīng1 héi2 = to be pleasantly surprised.
Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.
Caption: 黃進曦 x 楊學德聯展 | 寫生樂與思
黃進曦：睇我嘅作品係會有嗰種遊走嘅感覺嘅 | 呃，空間嘅一個 . . . 一種 . . . 一種玩味性嘅 . . . 有興趣嘅 | 呃，阿 . . . 阿德可能佢對於一啲情景 | 或者一啲經歷過一啲人物 | 喺 . . . 喺佢身邊經過佢會產生好多故事性 | 喺裏邊去安放翻喺嗰個空間裏邊 | 噉呢個先至係，呃，有趣嘅位 | 啫，啫，頭先講「畫意」嗰樣嘢我覺得係 . . . 就係基於我哋唔係想純碎描寫嗰個對象 | 而係透過嗰個空間或者嗰個對象去講緊一啲另外嘅嘢
楊學德：我比進曦更「曳」呀，哈哈 | 但係我好寫意地去 . . . 去記錄啲嘢嘅，啊 | 見到樖樹好特別呀， 見到嗰個景有某一點係我覺得係好 . . . 好有趣嘅 | 我 . . . 我會着重嗰啲細位度囉
● 聯展 lyùhn4 jín2 = to jointly hold an exhibition | ● 寫生 sé2 sā[a]ng1 (?) = to paint from life | ● 遊走 yàuh4 jáu2 = roughly, “to wander” | ● 玩味性 wuhn6 meih6 sing3 = cf. 玩味 = to ponder; to ruminate | ● 安放 [ng]ōn1 fong3 = to lay; to place; to put in a certain place | ● 畫意 wáa2 yi3 = (?) “pictorial meaning; painterly meaning” | ● 曳 yáih5 = naughty; mischievous | ● 寫意 sé2 yi3 = ① enjoyable cf. 愜意 hip3 yi3 = be pleased; be satisfied ② freehand brushwork (in traditional Chinese painting) | ● 着重 jeuhk6 juhng6 = to stress; to emphasize
Caption: Wong Chun-hei + Yeung Hok-tak: A Joint Exhibition | Painting from Life: Its Joys and Insights [思]
Caption: A Double Perspective on “One Scene, Two Paintings”
Wong Chun-hei: [If you] look at my paintings, you will get that sense of a wandering and a pondering [玩味性] of space. [As for] Ah Tak (Yeung Hok-tak), a scene or some people he has encountered [經歷過], people around him that he has had some dealings with, may produce many different story-elements [故事性] in them [that is, “the scenes and the people”], [which he then] puts into his spaces. This is where the interest lies [有趣嘅位]. That thing I mentioned a moment ago [頭先], “pictorial meaning”, is I think not something based purely on our depiction [描寫] of the object — it is a way of talking about [certain] other things, by means of the space or the object.
Yeung Hok-tak: I am “naughtier” [曳] than Chun-hei! I take great pleasure in recording things. [If I] see a tree with some peculiarity, or something in the view that I think is very interesting, I will emphasize that particular detail [細位度].
【1:00】當然我都會返去都亦都會 . . . 我做過個過程就係，又係去消化重新組合 | 再去經營幅 . . . 成幅大畫嗰個 . . . 嗰個 . . . 嗰個構圖嘅
黃進曦：我返屋企諗我哋嘅展覽做乜 | 突然間諗起兩幅畫 | 當年，呃，法國印象派 | Monet 同埋 Renoir 佢 . . . 佢哋兩個人一齊出去寫生，畫一個湖景嘅 | 其實個構圖好類似呀 | 但係呢，你會睇得出 Monet 嗰張係個景係重啲嘅 | Renoir 嗰張呢，就係個人物係出啲嘅 | 兩個畫家一齊出去 | 畫出嚟嘅嘢係可以有呢一種趣味性嘅分別 | 如果將呢樣嘢擺喺我同阿德身上面 | 係 O 唔 OK呢？| 就出嚟就傾喇 . . . 就係，傾吓有冇邊啲地方係大家一齊想去嘅
楊學德：「隱蔽中 . . . 中年」忽然間，啫係，呢個重見天日嗰啲呢
● 消化 sīu1 faa3 = to digest | ● 經營 = usu. “to manage; to run; to engage in | ● 構圖 kau3 tòuh4= composition (of a picture) | ● 印象派 yan3 jeuhng6 paai3 = Impressionism; the Impressionist School (of artists) | ● 類似 leuih6 chíh5 = similar; analogous | ● 趣味性 cheui3 meih6 sing3 = (?) interest; delight | ● 宅叔 jaahk6 sūk1 = (?) an introverted, middle-aged man who stays at home most of the time cf. 宅男、宅女 | ● 隱蔽 yán2 baih3 = usu. concealed; covert; under cover; undercover cf. 隱蔽青年 = introverted youth | ● 重見天日 chùhng4 gin3 tīn1 yaht6 = once more see the light of day
Yeung Hok-tak: Of course, back at home I will always . . . The process that I have followed [做過] is to go and digest [the material], re-organize it, then to re-work [經營] the composition of that entire big painting.
Wong Chun-hei: When I got back home, I thought about what to do for our exhibition. Suddenly, I thought of two paintings. Once [當年], the French Impressionists Monet and Renoir went out together to paint from life, doing a lake scene. Actually, they are similar in terms of composition, but you will see [會睇得出] that in Monet’s picture, there’s more emphasis on the scene, [while] in Renoir’s picture, it’s the people who stand out [出] more. Two painters went out together [to paint], [yet] what they painted could have this interesting difference. Would it be OK to apply this same thing to me and Ah Tak? So [we] went out and had a talk about [就出嚟就傾喇] . . . about which places [邊啲地方] we could both go to together.
【2:00】我唔出街㗎嘛，其實 ，啊 . . . 噉忽然間，嘩，直頭 | hardcore | 到要走去行山喎，咁 | 係好有 . . . 好有新鮮感 | 因為我畫嘢呢，嗰個習慣，或者習性呢，就係匿埋做嘢咁樣嘅 | 我其實比較少去參考啲 . . . 呃，reference 呀 | 啫係，我係偏向幻想嗰邊多啲嘅 | 但係呢種咁嘅形式 | 覺得自己好似有啲乾塘咁嘅感覺 | 諗嘢嗰個思維都係 . . . 都係嗰啲嘢 | 而噉佢 . . . 佢都，啫係，都提議話：「其實，你會唔會，啫係，考慮吓，呃，出去外邊睇吓嘢咁| 啫，有啲外來嘅新嘅刺激呢 | 可能會幫到你咁」 | 噉我 . . . 我就 . . . 啊，都覺得都可能係咁 | 啫係，無論去嗰個地方 | 呃，嗰個行嗰個嘅過程呀，或者見到嘅事物呀 | 或者會遇到嘅問題咁
● 直頭 jihk6 tàuh4 = directly, simply, completely, truly; straight head | ● 新鮮感 sān1 sīn1 gám2 = a (feeling of) freshness | ● 習性 jaahp6 sing3 = habits & characteristics | ● 匿埋 nēi1 màaih4 = to hide | ● 偏向 pīn1 heung3 = to be partial to | ● 幻想 waahn6 séung2 = usu. “an illusion; a fantasy; a reverie” | ● 乾塘 gōn1 tòhng4 = literally “dried-up pond”, perhaps used figuratively to mean “a drying up of the imagination or the source of one’s inspiration” | ● 提議 tàih4 yíh5 = to propose; to suggest | ● 刺激 chi3 gīk1 = a stimulus
I’m not the type that goes out much, actually. Then all of a sudden — wow, things went completely hardcore [嘩，直頭 hardcore] and there I was out there hiking! It was a very fresh sensation [for me], because when I paint something, I do it — out of habit or because it’s my habitual nature [習性] — hidden away at home. I rarely go out to consult references. I more inclined to make things up out of my own imagination [幻想]. But this mode of doing things [呢種咁嘅形式], well I had the feeling that I had dried up. My way of thinking about things [just led to] more of the same. Now he [Wong Chun-hei] made a suggestion [to me]: “Actually, would you consider going out of doors to have a look at things? Some new stimuli from an external source [外來嘅] would possibly help you.” And so I thought . . . I thought that it might well be so. I mean, no matter where [I] went, the process of walking, or the things that [I] saw, or the problems that [I] ran into . . .
【3:00】都 . . . 都對我嚟講係新嘅 | 經過咁樣呢次咁嘅嘗試 | 令我，呃，好徹底地改變咗某啲習性咁樣囉 | 啫係，覺得：「咦，原來用咁嘅色去溝咁嘅色 | 其實真係會有種『污糟』嘅感覺」| 但係之前一度都唔為意 | 覺得咁樣有種刺激感或者有一種力量感㗎嘛
黃進曦：所以啱啱「大風坳」嗰張畫擺出嚟嘅時候 | 其實我覺得咪好驚喜囉 | 啫 . . . 啫係，因為行完兩次大潭水塘 | 唔知道對方畫乜嘅 | 啫，我 . . . 我哋去 . . . 去寫生嘅時候其實冇望對方 | 攞咗咩景 | 啱啱 Art Basel 嗰陣時大家做完件出品擺出嚟嘅時候就 | 原來攞嘅景係一樣 | 無論色調唔同啦 | 畫面經營嘅重點又唔同 | 呃，啱啱嗰次就其實都幾做到我想要嘅嗰樣嘢嘅，其實 | 每一次其實阿德佢 . . .
● 徹底 chit3 dái2 = thorough; thoroughgoing; complete | ● 溝 kāu1 = to mix | ● 污糟 wū1 jōu1 = dirty | ● 一度 yāt 1 douh6 = once; for a time; at one point; on one occasion | ● 為意 waih? yi3 = 在意： 留意; 放在心上。 主張： 主意，見解；也指持有某種見解 | ● 重複 chùhng4 fūk1 = to repeat; to duplicate | ● 坳 aau3 = a depression in a mountain range; level land in a mountain; 大風坳 = Quarry Pass | ● 驚喜 gīng1 héi2 = to be pleasantly surprised | ● 大潭水塘 daaih6 tàahm4 séui2 tòhng4 = the Tai Tam Reservoirs | ● 色調 sīk1 diuh6 = a tone; a hue
. . . would all be new to me. Having gone through such a first try [嘗試] this time has made me completely change some of my habitual way of doing things [習性]. Like, [I] thought: “Oh, if you mix such and such a colour with that colour, you really get an impression of “dirtiness” [有種『污糟』嘅感覺]. But before that, for a time, I wasn’t aware of this [一度都唔為意]. It is this kind of thing that has a buzz for me [刺激感], a sense of power.
Caption: The Unrepeated Landscape
Wong Chun-hei: And so, when that picture “Quarry Pass” was put on display [擺出嚟], I was actually pleasantly surprised, because on [our] two walks to the Tai Tam Reservoirs, we didn’t know what the other one was painting. That is, when we went out to paint from life, we didn’t actually look to see [what] the other [was doing], which view we had taken. As it happened, it was at Art Basel, when [our] exhibition paintings were put up for display, that [we realized we had taken] the same scene. [But] our colours were different, and the points of emphasis [重點] in our handling of the scene were different. As it turned out, this is actually the thing I wanted. On each occasion, that reaction Ah Tak had in fact . . .
【4:00】. . . 可能面對好多新鮮嘅嘢嗰種反應呢 | 係某程度提醒翻我一啲嘢嘅 | 我自己會 . . . 會去諗 | 就係點樣可以 | 喺每一次 . . . 假設都係去同一個地方 | 但係其實你搵嘅一啲唔同嘅嘢，或者你都係用一個最新鮮嘅一個眼光嚟到去觀察呢 | 噉呢個我覺得呢一個係作為一個創作嘅，或者畫畫嘅人其實應該具備嘅一種 . . . 一種質素嚟嘅
● 假設 gáa2 chit3 = to suppose; to assume; to presume | ● 眼光 ngáahn5 gwōng1 = sight; foresight; insight; vision | ● 具備 geuih6 beih6 = to possess; to have; to be provided with
. . . faced as he probably was with many novel elements, was to some degree a reminder to me of certain things. Myself, I would think about how I could, on each different occasion . . . Supposing you go to the same place, you will in fact find some differences or you will observe [the place] with the freshest of gazes [最新鮮嘅一個眼光]. This I think is a quality that any person who creates or paints pictures ought to have, in fact.
Interview by Ko Cheung
Video by Desmond Chan
Photos courtesy of Artist
A storm-warning here gives weather
sudden celebrity: like the old days
the elements become something to reckon with
once more, briefly. Concrete covers most of the earth,
and half the indoor plants are forged
from plastic. Beneath umbrellas,
beneath artful perspex walkways,
beneath a film that shrink-wraps each thought,
we manage mostly to avoid all touch
of the rain, but can’t quite help breathing it into