There is something hopeful in most works by this Canadian Artist, self-taught, autistic on the spectrum, and suffered from depression through his adult life. He left too soon at age 35 but left behind all this great creative colorful landscapes, daily ink drawings every morning. There’s hope in what is left behind. The tortured artists persona is all too common. Wong was one of them but he didn’t follow convention, he stood out in the uniqueness of his creations.
One critique of writing about art is that it’s inaccessible in its language. To make it sound intellectual, when art writers write about art… it’s like that person at a party that tries to impress you with all the words. When you put art into words, it seems to drain the joy right out of the experience of just staring at it, getting lost on it, finding the detail and color of a creative mind, seeing things creatively. Damn!! Now I’m doing it.
So it’s probably best to just hear what Matthew Wong had to say:
MATTHEW WONG paints with distinctly singular brushstrokes that call to mind Modern masters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch. He creates psychologically-charged scenes, that although recognizable, possess an essence of uncanny. Wong’s range of color and mark-making originate from moments of daydreaming. He often portrays a small, solitary figure to reflect on the inherent loneliness of contemporary life. Wong lives and works in Edmonton, Canada.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from originally and when did art first enter your life?
I was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in Hong Kong. Art first appeared in the picture in my late 20s towards the end of the 2000s. I had graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Cultural Anthropology and spent about two years working a variety of office jobs, but nothing really seemed like a viable pursuit for the long haul and I was losing passion and motivation in life. During a lull in employment I found myself beginning to take photos with my cell phone, street signs and found geometric arrangements out in the urban environment, things like that. Shortly after, I decided to enroll in the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media for an MFA in an attempt to acquire better technical training for photography. My first memorable encounter with painting was in 2011, when I was an intern for the Hong Kong pavilion of the Venice Biennale that year. Coming across works by two artists in particular caused a radical shift in my thinking – the Julian Schnabel retrospective at the Museo Correr, and a series of 8 large Christopher Wool silk screened Rorschach blots in the main pavilion. It hasn’t occurred to me that painting could take these forms beyond realistic depiction, and I had a newfound curiosity to read and find out more about the evolution of painting over the past century. I finally began to paint and draw earnestly in 2013, using the local library and the internet as my tools for self-education in the medium.
Can you tell us about your process? How do you go about creating a new work?
My process is not limited to the time spent in my studio painting, in fact I would say over the past year the making of my work has come to 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. During these in-between moments 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, and more and more the works I have done in the past. 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. The process is improvisatory as I don’t do any sketching or planning beforehand. The actual time spent painting is meditative in nature and they inevitably come to appear as they do in the final image, and I don’t spend too long deliberating on decisions, simply trusting my instinct and the flow from hand to surface.
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?
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.
Matthew Wong, what is left, and what is left behind.
A good thing.