MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
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Cancellation under the EU Consumer Rights Directiv… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE CANADIAN COLLECTION
MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)


MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
oil on canvas
71 7/8 x 48in. (182.6 x 121.9cm.)
Painted in 2017
KARMA, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017.
Special notice
Cancellation under the EU Consumer Rights Directive may apply to this lot. Please see here for further information. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Matthew Wong’s Untitled (2017) conjures a vibrant, dreamlike landscape in a jewelled patchwork of colour. Rare for its large scale—at 1.8 metres in height, it is one of few such monumental canvases Wong is known to have painted—its saturated palette and intricate, offbeat composition exemplify the work of the artist Roberta Smith called ‘one of the most talented painters of his generation’ (R. Smith, ‘A Final Rhapsody in Blue From Matthew Wong’, New York Times, 24 December 2019). Wong, who lived and worked between Canada and Hong Kong, was self-taught, and used his art to conjure contemplative, richly enigmatic spaces. Here, behind a pink-blossomed sapling, shimmering fields, streams, thickets and wildflower meadows unfurl. Vivid, Van Gogh-esque dots and dashes fill the picture like a mosaic. The land is radiant with summery greens, ultramarine, poppy reds and warm corals; a larger tree sweeps sparkling gold and purple boughs overhead.

‘Art is all-encompassing in my daily life’, Wong said in 2014, when he had been painting seriously for just two years. ‘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’ (M. Wong, quoted in ‘They are Artists: Matthew Wong’, Altermodernists, 29 October 2014). Via this deep visual learning—intense Fauvist colours, spangled Pointillism, Hockney’s soaring post-cubist landscapes and the bold patterns of Matisse, Klimt and Kusama alike echo in his work—Wong developed his own singular, deceptively straightforward style. ‘These paintings’, Smith writes, ‘are extremely open and vulnerable. But once they lure you in, they leave you alone to explore their chromatic, spatial and psychological complexities’ (R. Smith, ibid.).

Wong worked intuitively and without preparatory drawing, passing the brush between both hands as he brought his imagined scenery to the surface. Untitled, as with many of his paintings, is alive with vertiginous warps in distance and tone. Its zones of colour are directed with cloisonné clarity, but they flex uncannily between positive and negative space, scintillating pattern and material depiction. We are plunged into a brilliant and disorienting world. Many of Wong’s paintings contain lone figures: they have been compared to the tiny wanderers in Song Dynasty Chinese landscapes, whose paths viewers can follow into the picture to explore the wonders and vastness of creation. This absorbing experience of landscape might equally be seen to express Wong’s sense of journeying into art history, new painterly horizons unfolding around him as he studies his craft.

In 2012, Wong began the daily practice of pouring ink onto the pages of a cheap sketchbook, hoping, he said, that something interesting would appear in the random marks and splashes. The wistful, visionary quality of Untitled speaks to this image of art as revelation: as a way of finding meaning, and of exploring potential worlds beyond our own. ‘I would like my paintings to have something in them people across the spectrum can find things they identify with’, said Wong in 2018. ‘I do believe that there is an inherent loneliness or melancholy to much of contemporary life, and on a broader level I feel my work speaks to this quality in addition to being a reflection of my thoughts, fascinations and impulses’ (M. Wong, quoted in M. Vogel, ‘Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life’, Art of Choice, November 2018). Untitled sees Wong finding magic in his solitude. With art history in his hands, an emotional landscape of disarming, magnetic beauty blazes into life.

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