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


MATTHEW WONG (1984-2019)
signed and dated in Chinese, titled ‘NIGHT 2 (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
152.5 x 152.5 cm. (60 x 60 in.)
Painted in 2018
Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Hong Kong, Massimo De Carlo, Day by Night, January – March 2019.

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Lot Essay

“I am a bit of an omnivore for sights, sounds and ideas and am always on the lookout for perspectives I had not considered before.” Matthew Wong

A long winding road stretches out across an expansive landscape tinted by nocturnal midnight blues. In the foreground, a lone tree stands tall, facing a labyrinth of foliage. In the distance, the night sky is clear with a single cloud idly drifting by. 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 artistic career, Night 2 is the final stanza of an epic poem.

This seminal work of art first debuted at Wong’s solo exhibition Day by Night at Massimo De Carlo Hong Kong in 2019. Exhibited alongside it’s counterpart Day 2 , this nocturnal scenery can be seen as a transitional masterpiece of Wong’s subsequent and final body of work – his Blue series. In this series, the artist abandons the golden yellows and pasture greens of sunlit terrains for more introspective shades of midnight blues. The colour blue is often associated with openness, freedom, and deep wisdom. However, too much blue can also conjure feelings of melancholy. For Mark Rothko, who famously said “I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy…” darker blues and deep mauves dominated the artist’s later paintings, revealing the brooding internal drama within his own personal life. Similarly for Wong, the transition into his Blue series at the final stage of his artistic career underscores more than just a shift in the artist’s colour palette, but rather an expression of deeper human emotion and thought. Night 2 is both expansive and incredibly alluring, yet there is a hint of deep introspection and psychological complexities that are evoked through the colour blue.

Another shift in Wong’s work during this period, is the depiction of nocturnal landscapes and interior scenes. Unlike his daytime scenes, the artist’s night scenes were filled with even more intense and mystical dream-like qualities. Reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s night paintings created during the last two years of his life in Arles and Saint-Rémy, the artist wrote in a letter to his brother Theo that the night was “much more alive and richly coloured than the day." For Wong, the night was a period of reflection and meditation after a day of activity. It was a new challenge for the artist to depict darkness through colour in a profoundly poetic and spiritual way. 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. Night 2 is the embodiment of such poetic sentiment and echoes van Gogh’s yearning for the night. By this period, Wong’s paintings became much larger in scale and confident in the execution of painterly strokes, dots, lines that composed striking imaginary landscapes. Night 2 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.” Similarities can be drawn between Night 2 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.”

Night 2 is an incredible masterpiece created at the height of Wong’s artistic prowess. Revealing the technical skill and emotional maturity of a young, self-taught artist, Night 2 is an ode to the forefathers of Impressionism and also manifesto for contemporary landscape painters. Evoking the sultry and soulful tunes of slow jazzy blues, this seminal work is, in the words of The New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, a “final rhapsody in blue”.

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