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A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.
Sushi Grass in Paradise (A story)
written by Holly Lee
with photographs by Lee Ka-sing
(65) Two Three Stories
Three Magi, Three Musketeers, Three Stooges, Three Cups of Tea, Three Blind Mice, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and not so long ago, Mrs. Bento’s three friends who gifted her the three plants…a baby Bodhi, a blooming orchid plant, and an amaryllis bulb, are now living their first beautiful life - Bodhi becomes a little tree reaching more than a foot’s height with big leafs, orchid has garnered five white flowers, and the tallest of the three, the amaryllis bulb shoots up three grand diva red flowers, trumpeting Spring’s arrival aloud.
Mrs. Bento couldn’t resist to take a picture of the three plant pals, arranging and posing them intimately close to each other. They become her friends now, physically taking over, and mentally snapping up the space of George, Toshio and Brody. Sitting down, she thinks disquietingly to herself: How long can I cope with this world that erratically tears people, and all things we familiarized apart? We all complain about this “new normal”, but could it be just the beginning, or consequence of - well, a far bigger feat to revenge on human’s misdoings?
Don’t think twice, it’s alright. Mrs. Bento stops dwelling on the difficult question here. Her “living in the moment” attitude and innate inclination towards optimism always gains the upper hand.
“Patrick told me,” Mr. Bento voice suddenly wakes her up, “After seeing Madama Butterfly in Venice last year, he was inspired to do a body of new work.”
“Isn’t he the doctor in Hong Kong who photographed flowers that look very dark?” Asked Mrs. Bento.
“Good that you remember! Let’s go through some of his old black and white flowers photographs he gave us,” said Mr. Bento as he climbs up the ladder to look for the box, which has labelled 'Patrick’s flowers'.
“Here you go,” He spreads out the thin pile of 8x10 inch photographs, less than ten in number. “Waxed Roses - Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, Behold (Rose), Calla Lily I and II, Narcissus #2, Hyacinth, Anthurium…”
“Just as I remember them, dark and solitude, pictures of flowers so uncommon that it won’t be easy to forget. Yes, it’s quite unusual, and so different from what one can predict pictures taken by doctors. Being privileged artists, the doctor photographers are more concerned with excelling in technique and aesthetic expected from general viewers.”
“Patrick has certainly taken his personal path and approach. He once said in the preface of his monograph that his works project a personal search for an ideal and peaceful garden inside his heart. His photograph is more a process of self-discovery that is about acceptance, integration and fulfillment and which follows a simultaneous spiritual journey of faith that is Catholic, tortuous and dark though ‘it is light’.” Mr. Bento points to the photograph of Waxed Roses - an eerie image showing five withered, hardened roses, like open mouths crying out in agony. “Rather showing the visible world, he’s showing us aspects of certain interiority.”
“Then have you heard of Dr. K. H. Wu, 鄔圻厚醫生? I knew about him from my grandmother. Obviously he was quite well known in the seventies in Hong Kong, not just as a doctor, but a photographer too.” Said Mrs. Bento.
“Yes, I’ve heard of him. In fact he was one of the founders of The Photographic Salon exhibitors Association in Hong Kong, I think around 1963? He belonged to the more traditional, or I ought to say more widely practised genre of pictorial photography at that era. I remember my father told me once that Dr. Wu used Leicaflex to take many award-winning photographs. He remained active until, maybe twenty years ago. Now if you’re interested I can also remind you of another ‘doctor photographer’, who used to live in Toronto but sadly passed away a few years ago. She was not just a medical practitioner, but an avid photographer and a recognized cellist in Orchestra Toronto.”
“Vow a woman of many talents!”
“Yeah, a small woman of strength too! She dragged along her field camera, sometimes travelled, as retold by her friend Vincenzo, ‘by jeep, on horseback, or trekked on foot through rough terrain, sleeping in tents, and even under the stars’. She had photographed over forty countries, mostly in remote places like the Gobi Desert, Petra, Angkor, Mali, Madagascar, the Namib Desert in Africa...”
“What an amazing woman! By the way, it sounds familiar. Have we seen or gone to her exhibition before?”
“We did, I’m surprised you remember. Beautiful exhibition wasn’t it. I was taken by the rich tonal range of the black and white and incredible details of the work. Well the thing is, she’s a perfectionist. After the Ansel Adams advanced black and white Workshop in Carmel, she was converted and adhered straightly to the Zone system. You see, since 1995 she had been using the large format camera and shooting 4x5 images with Polaroid black-and-white instant film, which yielded correspondingly positives and negatives. From the negatives she would spend hours in the dark room labouring on her silver prints.”
“The more I think about it, the more I think we have a photograph of hers, don’t we…a woman on horseback?” Asked Mrs. Bento, scratching her head and scanning her eyes around the house.
“Yes and no, we have another photograph of hers, the Two Mongolian Wrestlers,” replied Mr. Bento. “The woman on horseback was one of the exhibited prints in the show. Surely your memory must have ridden away with her before the two wrestlers invited us to see them combating, ha ha ha...”.
"Sushi Grass in Paradise" is an on-going story. To read the full length version with previous chapters, please visit- https://oceanpounds.com/blogs/sushi-grass-in-paradise
The Second-Read and other Negotiation Matters
[三魚集], 也斯, 田園書屋, 1988
[Flowers], Irving Penn, Harmony Books, 1980
[西諦書話], 鄭振鐸, 三聯, 1983
Cai Guo-Qiang (2008)
[Cai Guo-Qiang], Phaidon, 2002
A Holly Lee and Lee Ka-sing online magazine. Published on Fridays.
Published by Ocean and Pounds and archived at oceanpounds.com
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leekasing.com is a portal website for current and earlier works. Apart from exhibitions, Holly and Ka-sing use extensively web platforms to display photography and writing projects. Contact us for a detail list of links.
Holly and Ka-sing currently live in Toronto with their daughter Iris, and their cat Sukimoto.