Matthew Wong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips

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  • "I want to reach the point where people say of my work, ‘That man feels deeply, that man feels subtly’." —Vincent van Gogh

    Luminous and exuberant, One Fine Day and Odyssey present two very distinctive atmospheric landscapes from the highly acclaimed oeuvre of the late Canadian artist Matthew Wong. Informed by modernist traditions, his intuitive working method culminates in a vision of palpable dreamscapes that defies categorization.


    Paul Gauguin, Sacred Mountain, 1892

    With an almost preternatural sense for creating ethereal scenes, Wong sometimes populates his paintings with a solitary figure. One Fine Day is a meditation on the space between the imagined and the familiar. Here the lonesome figure lounging pleasurably on the hillside imbues a sense of tranquility amid the rhythmic, lushly-painted surroundings. It nods to the intense and expressive brushwork of Paul Gauguin (see for example, Sacred Mountain, 1892). Evoking the artist’s daily life since settling in rural Edmonton in Canada to focus on his artistic practice, perhaps the work reflects temporary respite from Wong’s own inner demons. But Wong’s ebullient palette is ‘tinged with a melancholic yearning’ and the sprawled silhouette with arms outstretched on the slope permeates the scene with ominous overtones. i


    Andre Derain, The Turning Road, L’Estaque, 1906, Museum of Fine Arts Houston
    Shitao, Thirty-six Peaks of Mount Huang Recollected, ca 1705, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1976

    Wong works with equal curiosity on paper. Odyssey  (lot 105) is a landscape built from robust brushstrokes and shades of red, yellow, blue and green. Reminiscent of the vibrancy of the Fauvist palette (see for example The Turning Road, 1906), with dense markings and contrasting patterns that animate the composition, the artist elicits a contemplative calmness, perhaps taking visual cues and technical guidance from the tranquil introspection of Chinese ink art - notably the Qing dynasty master painter Shitao (see for example Thirty-six Peaks of Mount Huang Recollected, ca. 1705) who Wong has cited as one of his influences - unifying a myriad of strokes through the artist’s own spiritual union with nature.

    "I already possess the super power I wanted – the ability to paint." —Matthew Wong

    Executed just two years apart, it is remarkable to witness how the self-taught artist’s style transformed. Displaying his intuitive grasp of composition and gestural brushwork, both works capture Wong’s extraordinarily contemporary take on the long tradition of landscape painting, manifesting the mystical and brightly coloured scenes in a manner of his own. Traversing the depth of his subconscious to conjure up ethereal vistas, both works are teeming with energy and warmth. At the same time, they address the desolateness of one’s existence through the personification of these psychologically-charged scenes. The artist’s fantastical landscapes “have something in them people across the spectrum can find things they identify with.” ii Stemming from the belief that “there is an inherent loneliness or melancholy to much of contemporary life,” Wong’s works speak to this universal feeling in addition to “being a reflection of my thoughts, fascinations and impulses.” iii


    Wong in his studio. Courtesy Altermodernists.

    Powerfully commanding emotive responses from his viewers, Wong’s short yet wildly fruitful venture into paintings presents a distinctly dark and poetic way of seeing that is indeed unique of his time. Since his debut solo exhibition at KARMA, New York in 2018, Wong has received overwhelming recognition and his works now form part of notable public collections and numerous international private collections. A solo show is being held at the Athens-based arts organisation ARCH until the end of 2020, paving the way for more comprehensive and detailed study into the artist’s life and works.


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

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

    iii Matthew Wong, quoted in ‘Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life’, Art of Choice, 15 November 2018, online.

    • Provenance

      KARMA, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2018

    • 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.  

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Property from a Prominent Private Collection


One Fine Day

signed, titled and dated '"ONE FINE DAY" Wong 2017 [in Chinese]' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
60.9 x 50.8 cm. (23 7/8 x 20 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

HK$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for HK$2,772,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

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

Hong Kong Auction 4 December 2020