Matthew Wong - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, June 23, 2021 | Phillips

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  • "My work has come to a rhythm where most of the work is done in idle moments when I am at home daydreaming...or going out on walks that have no destination or purpose in mind."
    —Matthew Wong

    Depicting a lone figure in a dreamlike field bursting with vegetative life, Field in a Dream, 2014-2017, captures the chromatic and material vibrance of Matthew Wong’s hypnotic landscapes. Defying laws of gravity and space, the landscape of brilliant flora collapses into a singular plane of the mind. Intermixing Western and Eastern art historical influences, Wong developed a unique painterly sensibility that has redefined the genre of landscape and deemed him “one of the most talented painters of his generation.”i Evoking the luscious scenes of Gustav Klimt and the expressionist power of Edvard Munch, the present work epitomizes Wong’s mesmerizing treatment of landscape to poignantly explore the subconscious. 


    [left] Gustav Klimt, A Field of Poppies, 1907. Oesterreichische Galerie im Belvedere, Vienna, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY [right] Edvard Munch, Young Woman on the Beach, 1896. Munch Museum, Oslo, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    Both in its title and subject matter, the present work embodies the heart of Wong’s practice of using landscape to explore interiority. Investigating these two concepts as a reflection of each other, Wong “worked at the intersection of inner psychology and exterior expression, troubling any simple explanations for the tension between them,” Lauren DiGiulio observed. “He constructed paradoxical spaces that, rendered in landscapes and domestic scenes, go deep into the psyche....[and] Wong’s conjuring of Belle Époque subject matter suitably molded his contemplative study of unexplored regions of the mind.”ii Here, Wong appears to visually address the Symbolist and Expressionist explorations on interior subjectivity and dreaming. As if he plucked Edvard Munch’s solitary young woman into Gustav Klimt’s brimful poppy field, Wong extracted a fusion of influences that he transformed into a singular composition of his own “field of dreams.” In this lyrical mirage, the figure wanders on an indefinite path in a subliminal, horizonless space crafted by the profuse marks of the artist’s painterly touch that express the landscape of his mind.

    "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

    A self-proclaimed “omnivore for sights, sounds, and ideas,” Wong was a sensuous painter.iii “One mark responds to another, colors 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 Actively channeling his memory and imagination in the process, Wong found that the painterly tropes of landscape-like spaces and subtle archetypical suggestions of figuration 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.”v As the artist 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.”vi


    Henri Matisse, Landscape at Collioure, 1905. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "I’d like to think of my art practice as an open-ended dialogue between myself and other painters, both living and dead."
    —Matthew Wong

    Throughout his oeuvre, Wong conjured a profound mélange of modernist influences, from Georges Seurat’s Pointillist dabs to Vincent van Gogh’s tactile strokes, from the vivid colors of Fauvism as seen in Henri Matisse's Landscape at Collioure, 1905, 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 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.”vii


    Vincent van Gogh, Poppy Field, 1890. Kunstmuseum Den Haag, The Hague, Image: HIP / Art Resource, NY

    Having learned the history and method of painting through social media, the internet, and his frequent trips to the reference section of the Hong Kong Public Library, Wong thoughtfully absorbed a global scope of art history, amalgamating the techniques of his Western predecessors with the technical brilliance and labor-intensive detail of traditional Chinese ceramic and painted work. In the present work, succinct inlaid strokes fill the spaces between van Gogh-esque brushmarks that together recall the scaly dragons and waves rendered by Chinese artisans. The holistic repletion of brilliant specks percolating throughout the canvas contribute to the appearance of a flattened perspective redolent of traditional Chinese landscape painting, which represents depth in stacked planes to conflate time and space. Wong’s employment of this spatial perspective in the case of this work is particularly impactful by embodying the surreal logic of the dream world—at once atemporal, aspatial, and at times vertiginous and fantastical.


    Collector’s Digest


    • Wong’s works reside in notable public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, Esteé Lauder Collection, New York, Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Aïshti Foundation, Beirut.


    • Phillips achieved the artist’s world record last December, when Wong’s River at Dusk achieved over $4,000,000.


    River at Dusk, 2018
    Achieved $4,871,441 in 2020. 

    i Roberta Smith, “A Final Rhapsody in Blue From Matthew Wong,” The New York Times, December 27, 2019, online.
    ii Lauren DiGiulio, “See You on the Other Side: Matthew Wong’s Vistas of the Mind,” Momus, April 1, 2021, online.
    iii Matthew Wong, quoted in Maria Vogel, “Matthew Wong Reflects on the Melancholy of Life, Art of Choice, November 15, 2018, online.
    iv Matthew Wong, quoted in Valerie Brennan, “Matthew Wong,” Studio Critical, November 4, 2013.
    v Ibid.
    vi Matthew Wong, quoted in Elaine Wong, “They Are Artists: Matthew Wong,” Altermodernists, October 29, 2014.
    vii Eric Sutphin, “Matthew Wong,” Art in America, June 1, 2018, online.

    • Provenance

      KARMA, New York
      Private Collection, Chicago
      KARMA, New York
      Acquired from the above 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

Property from a Prominent European Private Collection


Field in a Dream

signed, titled and dated "FIELD IN A DREAM 王 二零一四 — 二零一七" on the reverse
oil on canvas
86 3/4 x 67 in. (220.3 x 170.2 cm)
Painted in 2014-2017.

Full Cataloguing

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $2,934,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021