BlogPhotography Painting Exhibitions Projects Victor Chin Portfolio

Swee’s memory of our mother

December 9th, 2009

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My mother passed away almost three years ago. My mother was diagnosed with congestive heart condition in late 1999.  Seven years later, on 31st October 2006, she was admitted into University Hospital to have a heart by-pass surgery.

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My mother never regained consciousness after her surgery.  Sadly, 40 days later on 9th December 2006 at 7.00pm, she passed away at the age of 80 still in the Intensive Care Unit.  I did not get to hold my Mum’s hand or stroke her face one last time as she passed away before I got there.

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I remember vividly the day when my brother rang to tell me that my mother was critically ill.  My husband and I were our way to do our weekly groceries shopping.  It was 12.30pm in Auckland where we live and over in Kuala Lumpur it was 7.30am in the morning.  My instincts told me that it was not good news.

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I had no empathy about death until I lost my dear mother.  My heart was like a vase smashed by a hammer. Baffled and bereft, I somehow muddled through in the days after her death. Her death taught me that life is fleeting and family counts. Conjuring her voice, her infectious laughter and our frequent long distance calls have become a way for me to keep her close, to gather together the bits and pieces of her that reside within me.

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Born in 1926, my mother’s life spanned the Great Depression, World War II, the repressed ‘50s, the stormy ‘60s, disco, Y2K, 9/11, mobile phones, the digital revolution, emails and beyond.
I love the twinkle in Mum’s eyes whenever she talked about Seenum, my brother’s son.  Being a traditionalist, having grandson to carry on the Chin’s family name was her ultimate desire in her life.  My nephew fulfilled my Mum’s joy and pride.

Now when I go back to the house where Mum lived, I can almost see my mother’s face peering out the lounge window as my husband and I arrive even before we get to the door bell. She’s been gone nearly three years and her presence still permeates through out the house, her bedroom, the kitchen, the garden, the verandah, everywhere.
My mother left me with lots of famous sayings and lots of funny stories. This is how I get through the loss of my mother — by telling stories of her exploits, by laughing at her infamous mispronunciations, by remembering her strength, by following her Hakka recipes (“harm gai” which is her secret Hakka recipe of soaking a steamed “kampong” chicken in her concoction of home brewed rice wine and granulated salt).

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In a letter she wrote for my brother and to read after her death, which we found in her drawer beneath ancient bank statements, I never really thought about death until I lost my mother. But losing someone close to you gives you clarity. It helps you see what matters most; it allows you to appreciate the precious pieces a person leaves behind.
It’s my mother’s voice I hear whenever I am worried, in response to my worries about money or work or weight.

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My mother may be gone, but she is never gone from my heart as I replay fond memories of her. My mother and I shared a great mother and daughter relationship and bond.  She had an irrepressible love of a good mother and will be unforgettable.  I don’t ever recall saying out loud “I love you” to my mother.  Words may be missing but we had a deep affection for each other.  Most of the time, even before she opened her mouth to say something, I already had an inclination what my mother is going to tell me. I still miss her very much and I know she is always watching over me, my brother and her immediate family members.

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Some visitors at the exhibition

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Wuan and Peter Tan talking to some visitors

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Me, Raymond, Lee (from Applied Imaging that supported this project) and Tuan

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Stephano signing in the visitor’s book, Peter Crook chatting with Peter Tan

This join exhbition with Peter Tan & Wuan is a revisiting of the momories of our mother’s death and our grief. But it is not only that, to some visitors this show acts as a reminder to them that death is a mystery and it can happen to anyone at anytime. Some said that after looking at our presentation, they hope that their own children will one day do something like what we have done for our mother, for them when they are gone. There are a few who happened to be there, at the KLPac, but haven’t come to see our project and they would not look at the pictures at all and walk straight pass. Of course many are surprised by what we are showing.  We hope this display will open minds to an eternal truth about our human condition – death. How shall we prepare for it?

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Peter Tan with his mother.

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Relatives and friends at Peter Tan’s mother funeral.

Peter Tan and his wife Wuan and I will be having a exhibition of photos from 17 to 30 August 2009 at the KLPac.

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My pictures of my mother going into hospital and then she ‘disappeared’ there.

What is death? This is a question that confronts everyone as it is at the heart of humanity.  There are those who believe that after death, there is nothing, and there are those who believe it is the exit to another life. But the real answer is finally unknowable – for no one has been there and come back to tell us what it is.

What may survive after death are memories, some of which are concretized in photographs. Photography has a tremendous power to preserve private memories and perpetuate the ‘life’ of a departed one. They record moments and emotions that can be revisited by the person looking at them.

Pulau Perhentian series of abstract acrylic paintings will be my next exhibition at the KLPac starting 3 to 30 November, daily 10 to 10.

Form & Emptiness

July 29th, 2008

Sukhothai 1, Eric Peris, 1990, Digital print on photographic paper. 50x40cm.

Ayutthaya 1, Victor chin, 2006, Digital print on photographic paper, 40x50cm.

Photographic exhibition by Eric Peris and Victor Chin

28 July to 10 August, 2008, at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Center (KLPac).

Sunday 3 August, 3pm. Open discussion, with photographers at KLPac,

Please click here to read more.

Eric’s photographs, taken on several trips in the 1990s, take you on a visual trip into the ruined compounds and remains of Thailand’s first major capital, Sukhothai. His pictures captured what is left in decay of the ‘old city’ and gives a glimpse of the many impressive monuments and religious structures in its ‘golden age’ built in the 13 & 14 century. What his photos suggest is perhaps the Buddhist idea of ‘impermanence’ of all forms and things in life.

Victor’s images, taken between 2006 & 8, present fragments and close-ups of the desecrated Buddhist statues found in Ayutthaya’s ancient sites. It was the second capital of Thailand, flourishing from 14 to 18 century and because of its wealth and success, it was constantly attacked by its neighbours. 400 years ago, the invading Burmese soldiers and subsequent looters left the city in ‘emptiness’.

These 25 pictures are not just about personal memories of places visited and preserved as photographs. The art in these photographs are obvious in their compositions, lines, shapes and tonal values. Many may find these images intriguing and with unusual points of view. Hopefully these visuals can now continue to stimulate other photographer’s interest to tell their stories of other places and faces about the human condition – the destructive and survival instinct in ourselves and our fellow beings.

Contact: Eric Peris, email:ericperis@gmail.com , Victor Chin, email: vicchin@gmail.com