Netherlands | The work of Chinese-Canadian Matthew Wong in the spotlight at the Van Gogh Museum

(Amsterdam) Expressive brushstrokes, bright colors and a troubled life: characteristics of Vincent Van Gogh that we find in the story of Matthew Wong, a Chinese-Canadian artist honored in a unique exhibition at Amsterdam.

“Painting as a Last Resort”, accessible to the public from Friday at the Van Gogh Museum, presents for the first time in Europe more than 60 paintings by the artist already acclaimed across the Atlantic, who killed himself in 2019 , “at the dawn of glory”.

The exhibition highlights many colorful and enigmatic fantasy landscapes, often including melancholy blue tones, with tall horizon lines.

“There are so many similarities with Van Gogh’s approach to painting,” exhibition curator Joost van der Hoeven said at a preview Wednesday.

Wong taught himself to paint at the age of 27, just like Vincent. There is the expressive brushwork and the use of color.

Joost van der Hoeven, curator of the exhibition

“But there is also a very raw emotionality in the work and when I started reading more about him (Wong), I discovered all these strange parallels between their life stories,” he said. added.

Matthew Wong lived between Canada and Hong Kong throughout his life and began painting eight years before his death, his “last resort”.

“I see myself in him. The impossibility of belonging to this world,” the Chinese-Canadian artist said, according to the museum, about Van Gogh, who committed suicide at the age of 37, tormented by severe mental disorders.

But if the Dutch genius died in poverty, “Wong’s talent was more widely recognized during his short and tumultuous career,” points out the museum.

Around 2017, his fantastic and abundant body of work attracted the attention of art collectors in the United States. The New York Times called him “one of the most talented painters of his generation.”

Matthew Wong killed himself at age 35, “on the cusp of fame,” we read in a New York Times obituary in October 2019.


Mr Wong struggled throughout his life with depression, autism and Tourette’s syndrome “and had difficulty communicating with others”, the Van Gogh Museum said.

On social media, he found a community from which he learned a lot. Besides Van Gogh, Mr. Wong also drew inspiration from a wide range of other painters, including Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

“It’s more than just ‘Oh, here’s Vincent influencing Wong,'” said Emilie Gordenker, director of the Van Gogh Museum.

“Wong was an incredibly talented artist, with a broad palette, a real emotional frankness, a great painter” in his own right, she told AFP.

Wong’s landscapes show the influence of Van Gogh, but the Chinese-Canadian artist “developed his own language,” she noted. In her work, certain references inspire “a feeling of melancholy and sadness,” she added.

We find in many paintings “a small, solitary figure in this overwhelming fantasy world,” observes Mr. van der Hoeven. “These figures are in fact self-portraits.”


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