Matthew Wong (1984-2019)
Coming of Age Landscape
signed and dated in Chinese and titled 'COMING OF AGE LANDSCAPE' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 70 in. (152.4 x 177.8 cm.)
Painted in 2018.
KARMA, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

“Mr. Wong made some of the most irresistible paintings I’ve ever encountered. I fell for the patchworks of color and stippled patterns of his landscapes… It was a visceral experience, like falling for an unforgettable song on first listen. It was deeply nourishing: my life had been improved and I know other people who have had the same reaction. Such relatively unalloyed pleasure is almost as essential as food” (R. Smith, “A Final Rhapsody in Blue from Matthew Wong” New York Times, December 2019).

Pulsating with spellbinding brushwork and beaming hues, Coming of Age Landscape from 2018 is a superlative example of Matthew Wong’s masterful synergy of color and form. Impressive in scale, spanning almost six feet, the composition highlights the artist’s painterly prowess. An entrancing manifestation of Wong’s voracious art historical study, it positions itself in a visual dialogue amongst the wheat fields and starry night skies of Vincent van Gogh, the jewel-toned landscapes of Gustav Klimt and the hallucinatory infinity nets of Yayoi Kusama. Drawing inspiration from the masters before him, Coming of Age Landscape showcases the new modes of representation and expression of the artist’s unique language. Infused with poetic nostalgia, melancholy, and a sense of purity, Wong’s imaged scene encourages viewers to yearn for a different reality beyond the absurdity of everyday life.

Rendered with a vibrant and glowing color palette of contrasting cobalt, dandelion-yellow and mossy greens, Coming of Age Landscape possesses a striking ethereality. Hypnotically patterned brushwork comes together to create a mystical landscape reminiscent of the 19th-century Symbolist French collective Les Nabis. The fertile vegetation within symbolizes renewal while also acts as a melancholic reminder of decay and the fragility of nature. Thick staccato brushstrokes in yellow accentuate the landscape, resulting in an incredibly tactile surface reminiscent of Pointillism. Eric Sutphin described Wong’s practice saying that he “can be considered a kind of nouveau Nabi, a descendant of Post-Impressionist painters like Édouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier. Like his forebears, he synthesizes stylized representations, bright colors, and mystical themes to create rich, evocative scenes. His works, despite their ebullient palette, are frequently tinged with a melancholic yearning” (E. Sutpin, “Matthew Wong,” Art in America, June 2018). A technical feat, Coming of Age Landscape is a picture of transcendence and an emblem of Wong’s exceptional visual identity.

To create his works, Wong looked to art historical references as well as the natural and unnatural world around him. A self-proclaimed daydreamer and recluse, Wong celebrates color and light in his abundantly elaborate worlds that all viewers can identify with. In a 2018 interview, Wong stated, “I would like my paintings to have something in them people across the spectrum can find things they identify with. 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). In Coming of Age Landscape, Wong reveals the inner workings of his imagination while inviting his viewers to join him in this paradisiacal landscape. A magical example from the artist’s limited oeuvre, Coming of Age Landscape achieves an intangible dual-existence between the world in which Wong lived and the worlds he paints.

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