Matthew Wong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Tuesday, November 30, 2021 | Phillips
  • “Mr. Wong made some of the most irresistible paintings I’ve ever encountered…It was a visceral experience, like falling for an unforgettable song on first listen.”
     — Roberta Smith

    Hypnotic and riveting, Far Away Eyes by Matthew Wong captures the chromatic vibrance, compositional complexity, and emotional depth that characterises the artist’s unique painterly sensitivity. A lone figure, cloaked in gold, stands beneath a single tree, quietly contemplating a sweeping glittering vista of mountain and sky. Slightly off-centre, the solitary tree is imbued with a poignant anthropomorphic quality, its trunk leaning towards a setting sun. The landscape is bathed in incandescent Fauvist hues, while the flattened perspective defies laws of gravity and space, drawing viewers into the depths of memory, imagination, and longing.


    Intermixing Western and Eastern art historical influences, Wong developed a singular aesthetic that has redefined the genre of landscape, winning the praise of the esteemed The New York Times critic Roberta Smith, who declared him ‘one of the most talented painters of his generation.’i Evoking the scintillating scenes of Gustav Klimt, the expressionist power of Edvard Munch, the dream-like serenity of Peter Doig, as well as the minimalistic poise of traditional Chinese scrolls, Far Away Eyes evokes notions of introspection, meditation, and the search for meaning. It serves as an exquisite example of Wong’s mission and visual language and a moving testament to his uniquely delicate mind.



    Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889
    Collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art

    The Self-Taught Genius


    Wong began painting in 2013 at the age of 29, using his local library and the internet as tools for self-education. A self-proclaimed ’omnivore for sights, sounds, and ideas,’ii Wong was inspired by everything from his daily visual experiences to the vast canon of the history of art, absorbing information fervently with a highly intellectual mind and an insatiable creative appetite. Over a short period of time, Wong developed his own astonishing visual lexicon – one that conjured a profound mélange of modernist influences, from Georges Seurat’s Pointillist dabs to Vincent van Gogh’s tactile strokes, and from the vivid colours of Fauvism to the evocative hues of Symbolism. As Eric Sutphin observed, ‘Wong can be considered a kind of nouveau Nabi, a descendant of Post-Impressionist painters like Édouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier. Like his forebears, he synthesises stylised representations, bright colours, and mystical themes to create rich, evocative scenes. His works, despite their ebullient palette, are frequently tinged with a melancholic yearning.’iii



    Paul Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire, circe 1895
    Collection of the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

     “I’ll often have quick flashes of imagery appear in and out of my thoughts, they could be shaped or triggered by something I saw or heard out in the world, an artwork I have seen...Going by intuition and my emotions I will then head to the studio and set out to elaborate in paint these vague glimpses I get....simply trusting my instinct and the flow from hand to surface.” 
    — Matthew Wong


    Birch Forest, 1903 - Gustav Klimt -

    Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903
    Collection of the Belvedere, Vienna

    The Journey Inwards


    In his singular reinvigoration of the genre of landscape, Wong inwardly channels memory, imagination, and intuition. He stated: ‘One mark responds to another, colours start piling up, getting scraped away, and built up again, and so on and so forth, and somewhere along the line I always reach a certain point where I can intuitively sense the general shape and structure of the image I need to work towards.’iv He further explained: ‘None of the works are planned in advance, but rather worked out through an intuitive engagement with the pigment and surface. Therefore, my work can be seen as an existential meditation on the act of painting, painting as a marker of time.’v His chosen motifs of atmospheric landscapes and evocative scenes were, in his words, ‘a good starting point for me to establish my visual vocabulary and also have a dialogue with the paintings of the past and present that I admire and learn from looking at.’vi


    “The figures, which disturb the landscape, can be read as surrogates for the artist working his way through the landscape of art; he is both embedded in the paint and having a dialog with it.” 
    — John Yau


    Georges Seurat, Morgenspaziergang (Die Seine bei Courbevoie), 1885
    Collection of the National Gallery, London


    The Golden Pilgrim


    At the core of Wong’s oeuvre is the small figure embedded within his sprawling luminous landscapes. These solitary pilgrims anchor his canvases, serving as a link between exterior landscape and psychological interiority, and a way for viewers to access the endless expanse of the unconscious. The artist has said: ‘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.’vii Radiant and exquisitely mesmerising, Far Away Eyes nevertheless carries within it a silent meditative weight, its bewitching scenery a vehicle to transport viewers into an otherworldly realm cut off from the noise, and often struggles, of reality.


    Collector’s Digest

    With a rise to stardom so rapid, it is widely considered as one of the most remarkable of the past half century, Wong’s work has been honoured with inclusion in notable public collections wordwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; Estée Lauder Collection, New York; and the Aïshti Foundation, Beirut. 

    Continuing the momentum around the artist’s acclaim, the Art Gallery of Ontario is currently hosting the first museum exhibition dedicated to the painter, Matthew Wong: Blue View, which opened on 13 August 2021 and closes on 18 April 2022. This will be followed by the forthcoming retrospective, Matthew Wong, at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2022.

    In December 2020 when Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly auction sold Wong’s painting River at Dusk (2018), it far exceeded its pre-sale estimate range of HK$7,000,000 – 10,000,000, hammering down at HK$37,760,000 plus Premium, establishing the artist’s current world record. More recently in June 2021, Wong’s work Figure in a Night Landscape (2017) was sold by Phillips Hong Kong in association with Poly Auction for HK$36,550,000 against estimates of HK$6,000,000 – 8,000,000, landing Wong’s second top record at auction. 


    Left: Matthew Wong's 1st top auction result, River at Dusk, 2018
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction on 3 December 2020 for HK$37,760,000
    © 2021 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    Right: Matthew Wong's 2nd top auction result, Figure in a Night Landscape, 2017
    Sold by Phillips Hong Kong in Association with Poly Auction on 3 December 2020 for HK$36,550,000
    © 2021 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York




    i Roberta Smith, ‘A Final Rhapsody in Blue From Matthew Wong’, The New York Times, December 27, 2019, online 

    ii Matthew Wong, quoted in Maria Vogel, ‘Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life’, Art of Choice, November 15, 2018, online

    iii Eric Sutphin, ‘Matthew Wong’, Art in America, June 1, 2018, online

    iv Matthew Wong, quoted in Valerie Brennan, ‘Matthew Wong’, Studio Critical, November 4, 2013, online

    v Matthew Wong, quoted in Elaine Wong, ‘They Are Artists: Matthew Wong’, Altermodernists, October 29, 2014, online

    vi Matthew Wong, quoted in Valerie Brennan, ‘Matthew Wong’, Studio Critical, November 4, 2013, online

    vii Matthew Wong, quoted in Maria Vogel, ‘Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life’, Art of Choice, November 15, 2018, online

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Fair Warning, Online, 27 August 2020
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Artist Biography

      Matthew Wong

      Matthew Wong was a Canadian artist who enjoyed growing acclaim for his lush, dreamlike scenes that play on a rich tradition of art historical precedents. His work depicts the vivid but often melancholy terrain between sleep and wakefulness, lonely landscapes and isolated interiors rendered with a carefree hand and an ebullient palette, yet which contain an ineffable sorrow and a palpable but unnamed longing.  

      Wong spent his childhood between cultures: he was born in Toronto, Canada and at age 7 moved with his family to Hong Kong where he lived until he was 15, at which time the family returned to Canada. Wong began to experiment artistically already well into his adulthood, first with photography, which he pursued at the postgraduate level at the City University of Hong Kong, and then with painting. A self-taught painter, Wong developed his aptitude for the medium by immersing himself in online conversations with other artists and dedicated personal study of the history of art. His paintings attracted almost immediate attention, but Wong tragically passed away in 2019 just as his work was beginning to receive widespread critical praise.  

      View More Works


Far Away Eyes

signed, titled and dated '"FAR AWAY EYES" Wong 2017 [in Chinese]' on the reverse
oil on canvas
66 x 147.5 cm. (25 7/8 x 58 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000 

Sold for HK$21,183,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+852 2318 2026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 30 November 2021