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  • Overview 

     

    A self-described ‘omnivore for sights, sounds and ideas’, Matthew Wong became known for
    producing mesmerising landscape paintings that similarly made for unique synaesthetic
    experiences. Two Women, pulsating with colour and stretching over a metre in height, is an
    exquisite example of the artist's ability to create sensorial commotion. With its eponymous
    subject matter nestled at the bottom right corner of an otherwise expansive, kaleidoscopic
    composition, the painting characteristically responds to Wong’s intimate sensibilities, evoking notions of silence, introspection, meditation, and wistful harmony. It serves as a mature example of the artist's mission and visual language — an exquisite testament to his uniquely delicate mind.

    '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.' —Matthew Wong

  • Painting From Personal Truths

     

    Wong first began to paint in 2013, following a number of defining encounters with art and
    photography. Coming across the work of two artists in particular, Julian Schnabel and Christopher Wool, Wong realised that painting did not need to cater to one single meaning; instead, it could blossom from diverse understandings, and feed from personal truths. ‘It hadn’t occurred to me that painting could take these forms beyond realistic depiction’, the artist confessed. As a result, he began ‘to paint and draw earnestly […], using the local library and the internet as my tools for self-education in the medium’.1 During a lull in employment following his Cultural Anthropology studies at the University of Michigan, Wong found himself photographing street signs and geometric arrangements in urban environments, subsequently materialising them on paper and on canvas. More than realistic renderings of his visual experiences, Wong’s paintings became moods, emotions and atmospheres incarnate. A result of his intimate yet deeply referential painterly meanderings, Two Women evokes Paul Signac's poetic renderings of trees in the South of France, imparted with a personal and contemporary twist.

     

    Claude Monet, Le Dejuner sur l'herbe (The Picnic), C.1865-1866, oil on canvas, Pushkin Museum, Moscow. © 2021 Image: Scala, Florence.
    Left: Claude Monet, Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe (The Picnic), C.1865-1866, oil on canvas, Pushkin Museum, Moscow. © 2021 Image: Scala, Florence.
    Right: Paul Signac, St Tropez, the Custom's Path, 1905, oil on canvas, Musee de Grenoble, France. Image: Bridgeman Images.

    '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 SmithRecalling the work of masters such as Vincent van Gogh and Yayoi Kusama, Wong’s Two Women is an entrancing manifestation of his unique visual language. While the painting’s formal style bears evident iconographic references to movements including Fauvism, Pointillism and Impressionism —one is notably reminded of Claude Monet’s Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe— the nostalgic overtone washing over its subject matter is specifically reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s forlorn compositions, dominated by notions of loneliness and angst rather than commanded by individuated human silhouettes. Looking at Avenue Under the Snow, one has a comparable sentiment of liminal detachment, produced by the intersection of natural events —the snow’s layered coatings— and human presence, overall carried by an overarching sense of silence. Though the eponymous two women in the present painting bear no explicit nostalgic features—no facial frowns, no signs of wistfulness— their smallness in comparison to the magnitude of the nature that surrounds them compels a broader, more existential questioning on human life. It is their simultaneous presence and absence from the tableau that highlight the distinctly Munch-ian mood that is at play.

     

    Edvard Munch, Avenue under the Snow, 1906, oil on canvas, Oslo. © 2021. Image: Scala, Florence.
    Edvard Munch, Avenue under the Snow, 1906, oil on canvas, Oslo. © 2021. Image: Scala, Florence.

    Making an Image

     

    Indeed, Wong’s compositions convey a sense of in-betweenness that reflects his own continual state of introspective meditation. Speaking of his painterly process, Wong said that the making of his work followed ‘a rhythm where most of the work is done in idle moments when I am at home daydreaming, or watching movies and listening to music, drinking coffee or going out on walks that have no destination or purpose in mind’.2 During these in-between moments, he would follow his intuition and instincts, magnifying specific glimpses and diminishing others whilst constructing an image-in-becoming, like his mind, perpetually in process. ‘There isn’t any source material I keep on hand in the studio, just a mental database of art I have seen or impressions from day to day life, conversations, and so on. Instagram is great for looking at art, even as it’s no substitute for the real thing’.3 Looking at important examples of art history through his screen — namely a number of seminal contributions by 20th century modern masters— Wong then propels his creations in a visual realm that can quickly be identified as contemporary.

     

    Engulfed in Nature

     

    Throughout history, the genre of landscape has been vivified by discreet human presence, often dwarfing physical silhouettes against the immensity of nature. In the canon of modern painting, a number of these compositions included women, and were eponymously labeled as such.

  • Matthew Wong In Conversation

     

    In 2018, the writer and curator Maria Vogel interviewed Matthew Wong about his inspirations, process, and melancholic paintings.

     

    Maria Vogel: There are hints of melancholy in your work which often features a lone figure. Do you intend for your paintings to be interpreted in this way?

     

    Matthew Wong: Living a fairly reclusive life and finding the most stimulation and enjoyment from matters of the mind, be they following the natural path of my imagination or watching films in the dark of my living room, an activity which is a part of my routine I pursue every night without fail, it’s inevitable that the solitary nature of this pattern seeps into and informs my work. That 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.

     

    MV: What source imagery do you use for your work? Are the scenes thought up on your own or do they come from a reference?

     

    MW: There isn’t any source material I keep on hand in the studio, just a mental database of art I have seen or impressions from day to day life, conversations, and so on. Instagram is great for looking at art, even as it’s no substitute for the real thing. Being so far out in Edmonton, Canada, which is where I live, social media is still the next best option for keeping myself in touch with what other artists are doing.

     

    MV: Where do you think your work fits in dialogue with artists who came before you?

     

    MW: I have not really thought much about my place in the histories and lineages of painting. This may sound a bit idealistic, but I really would like to think that anybody out there painting or drawing something at the moment is engaging in the same larger, perhaps infinitely vast conversation as I am about the craft.

     

    Read more here.


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

    • Provenance

      Galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris
      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.  

       
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Property from an East Coast Collection

9

Two Women

signed, titled and dated 'Two Women Wong 2017 [in Chinese]' on the reverse
oil on canvas
152.3 x 101.5 cm (59 7/8 x 39 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2017.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£350,000 - 450,000 

Sold for £954,200

Contact Specialist

 

Rosanna Widén
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+ 44 20 7318 4060
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Olivia Thornton
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 15 April 2021