Matthew Wong

Matthew Wong took his life on October 2, 2019, in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 35. His obituary in the NYTimes described him as “a promising self-taught painter whose vibrant landscapes, forest scenes and still lifes were just beginning to command attention and critical acclaim.”

His mother, Monita (Cheng) Wong, said Mr. Wong was on the autism spectrum, had Tourette’s syndrome and had grappled with depression since childhood… In a telephone interview, she spoke of his sense of isolation, and of his struggles with depression. “He would just tell me, ‘You know, Mom, my mind, I’m fighting with the Devil every single day, every waking moment of my life.’”

Mr. Wong’s paintings also synthesize from Chinese landscape painting, Van Gogh, Vuillard, Milton Avery, Alex Katz and Lois Dodd. But his brush strokes convey their own sense of urgency and speed, which downplays mastery for the sake of direct communication.

And Mr. Wong took equal inspiration from natural forms — leaves, trees, their branches, grass, stones, bushes — translated them into a his own vocabulary of semiabstract strokes and shapes.

Sources
Neil Genzlinger, “Matthew Wong, Painter on Cusp of Fame, Dies at 35,” NYTimes, 10-21-19.
Roberta Smith, “A Final Rhapsody in Blue From Matthew Wong,” NYTimes, 12-24-19.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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3 Responses to Matthew Wong

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    “…their own sense of urgency and speed, which downplays mastery for the sake of direct communication”.

    I find the deliberate stylization whimsical, not unlike the feel of New Yorker covers of yore, though his work most resembles late Hockney landscapes (though nobody mentions that). Perhaps less of a sacrifice sidelining “mastery” when one is “self-taught” and, frankly, there’s no hard-earned mastery to begin with. I like his paintings. They are nice.

    • JMN says:

      The article’s comment about mastery (I think it was Roberta Smith’s) stumped me a bit. I’m more familiar with striving for it rather than downplaying it! And the tradeoff for the sake of “direct communication” puzzles me too. I frankly don’t understand what that means. What you say about the “self-taught” factor is apt. The “early moon” painting had a lyrical vibe to it for me. “Nice” is a good word here.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        It’s just the typical contemporary art speak. Knowing how to paint is a no-no, in general. Being a member of the unprotected class and knowing how to paint is a sin.

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