MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
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MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)

Yellow Brick Road

Details
MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
Yellow Brick Road
signed and dated in Chinese, titled ‘YELLOW BRICK ROAD’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
102.2 x 76.6 cm. (40 1⁄4 x 30 1⁄8 in.)
Painted in 2018
Provenance
KARMA, New York
Private collection
Casterline & Goodman Gallery, Aspen
Private collection, USA
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Special notice

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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Head of Evening Sale

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Lot Essay

“The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick” L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

A long yellow brick road stretches out across an expansive landscape tinted by nocturnal midnight blues. In the foreground, a lone figure can be observed making their way towards the horizon line. In the distance, the night sky is midnight blue and accented with bright yellows and earthy green brushstrokes. This mysterious journey is instantly alluring, yet tinged with a forlorn yearning that leaves one feeling wide open. Painted within the final years of Wong’s prolific, yet short-lived career, Yellow Brick Road is a poetic work signalling the artist’s mature artistic output.

The title pays homage to Lyman Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel, The Wizard of Oz, wherein the fictional yellow brick road is portrayed as a metaphor for the course of action that an individual takes because they believe it will lead to good things. Wong creates an imagined landscape out of this age-old metaphor and turns it into a luscious, dreamy landscape reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s night paintings created during the last two years of his life in Arles and Saint-Rémy. Yellow Brick Road is the perfect harmony between Wong’s earlier works featuring sunlit terrains and pasture greens with his later works featuring nocturnal scenes and midnight blues. The relationship between dreams and reality, observation and imagination, life and death, are incredibly vivid and potent during this final stage of Wong’s oeuvre. Yellow Brick Road is the embodiment of such poetic sentiment and echoes van Gogh’s yearning for the night.

Yellow Brick Road is the culmination of Wong’s intense examination of form and colour through internalizing lessons learned from the great artists that preceded him. As John Yau described in Hyperallergic, “It is impossible to detect any irony or boredom within the marks. The changing of their size, direction, and colour underscores Wong’s active engagement with the painting.” In particular, similarities can be read between Yellow Brick Road and Yayoi Kusama’s rhythmic infinity nets. Both have a sense of weightlessness and depth through the interplay of truncated and fluid brushstrokes. Wong himself has cited Kusama as a key influence on his work and stated that he is an “omnivore for sights, sounds and ideas and…always on the lookout for perspective (he) had not considered before.” Wong further explained that he does not “spend too long deliberating on decisions, simply trusting (his own) instinct and the flow from hand to surface.”

The figure – a key recurring motif across Wong’s oeuvre – adds a deeply human sense of narrative and story. As Will Heinrich wrote for the New York Times, “At first I thought these complicated constructs of color and pattern were spoiled by the single tiny person Mr. Wong drops into most of them… But in fact they’re both psychologically and formally crucial.” By including a small figure on the yellow brick road, Wong creates a narrative of journeying towards something greater, allowing us to imagine a progression of events that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. The anonymous figure provides a visual focal point, grounding the landscape while creating a sense of the grandiose and beauty of nature.

In an interview with online magazine Altermodernists, Matthew Wong stated, “Art is all-encompassing in my daily life. When I’m not working, I’m at the library doing research into the history of art, figuring out where I can fit into the greater dialogue between artists throughout time, or on the internet looking at art-related websites and engaging in dialogue on social media with artists and art-world figures around the world.” Wong’s work has drawn comparisons to that of Vincent Van Gogh, Yayoi Kusama, Edvard Munch, Shitao and others, demonstrating the exceptional dexterity with which he internalized lessons learned from the great artists that preceded him.

Yellow Brick Road is a beautifully intimate work of art by the artist. Journeys may be spiritual as well as physical, and this painting invites us to explore the visual tactility and richness of the painted surface, as well as contemplate the symbolism of the figure in the context of the overall composition.
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