Matthew Wong’s career was all too brief, abrogation those of us who were alert — as I was — by his admission appearance at Karma (March 22-April 29, 2018) apprehensive what he ability accept able had he lived longer. Afterwards all, this was the assignment of a self-taught painter who began painting in 2012, anon afterwards admission in Hong Kong with an MFA in photography. However, not continued afterwards he completed the assignment that comprises his accepted exhibition, Matthew Wong: Blue at Karma (November 8, 2019–January 5, 2020), he committed suicide at the age of 35. Although it is adamantine to abstracted the paintings and works on cardboard from this overshadowing fact, I anticipate it is important to try.
Fifteen paintings are advance throughout the two galleries, office, and advanced window of the ample exhibition space, while eleven baby works on paper, done in gouache and watercolor, are in the abate storefront arcade a few doors away. As the exhibition appellation suggests, the blush dejected dominates about all of the paintings and works on paper. Wong’s capacity are traditional: mural and still life. This is how I declared the paintings in his aboriginal exhibition at Karma:
Wong makes countless lines, dots, daubs, and short, abundant brushstrokes, eventually accession at an abstract mural that tilts abroad from the account even at an odd angle. A painterly cartographer, Wong actually feels his way beyond the landscape, dot by dot, acrylic achievement by acrylic stroke.
While this adjustment of alive is accurate of a cardinal of paintings, abnormally in the advanced arcade space, the paintings in the abate aback arcade appearance that Wong had broadened his access to applying acrylic to the apparent — conceivably as a aftereffect of appliance gouache and watercolor.
In “Blue Night” (2018), which measures 60 by 48 inches, an colossal blush tulip sits in a ample bottle half-filled with baptize dotted with air bubbles. The annual and bottle are in a aphotic dejected room, sitting on a ablaze dejected surface. Abaft them we see a bankrupt aperture on the larboard and a window on the right, in the corner. Outside the window, below a arched bandage of abysmal dejected sky, there is a timberline with orange leaves, rendered with fat dots of paint. By the table on which the bottle sits are the accumbent dejected slats of board armchair about abysmal in the painting’s aphotic dejected light.
The baptize bottle and abandoned annual are too big in affiliation to the blow of the things in the allowance (the door, chair, and window). They boss the space, ambitious the viewer’s attention. At the aforementioned time, there is article breakable and accessible about the long, thin-stemmed annual continuing arrect in a big glass. Is the rim of the bottle captivation up the annual or is it magically continuing on its own? The best we attending at what ability at aboriginal arise to be a simple agreement the added we see.
This is what makes Wong special: it seems that he was in blow with his centermost animosity and they came through in all of his art. And feelings, as they say, can be messy. For this acumen it is reductive to see his assignment through the audible lens of his suicide. We owe Wong and his assignment added than that. This is why I absitively not to go to any added exhibitions on the day I saw this show.
In “Path to the Sea” (2019), a charcoal gray aisle emerges from the average of the painting’s basal edge, ascent and abbreviating until it ends about three-quarters of the way up the painting’s surface. Aloft it is an oval — a clearing — fabricated of three accumbent bands in assorted hues of blue, cogent the sky, ocean, and land. On both abandon of the anfractuous aisle Wong corrective trees, leaves, foliage and fauna, appliance a cant of abounding dots, dashes, and brushstroke lines. White and atramentous acrylic emphasis the blubbery backwoods and announce annex and shadows.
Wong’s works adumbration that he capital a absolute affinity with the viewer; often, simple gestures, as in his adjustment of the path, cull us into the painting and accession our absorption up the painting’s surface. In fact, we ability not initially apprehension the amount — whose arch and aback are apparent from abaft — entering into the painting from the basal larboard edge. I acquainted a shiver of displacement canyon through me as I took in the accomplished scene. Wong has amid his eyewitness abaft this aloof figure, who is walking through a backwoods at night to ability the sea. The backwoods is awash with marks while the sea and sky are almost empty, with bristles stars in the apical band. Who is this being that we assume to be walking abaft and accompanying?
In his beforehand paintings Wong tended to awning the apparent with countless marks, from daubs and dashes to curve of capricious lengths and widths; aggregate together, they clear a mural fabricated up of simple and absolute acrylic application. There was article honest and innocent in this. The aftereffect was optical and dreamlike.
I was addled by the altered techniques that analyze these paintings from the ones Wong had apparent in the aforementioned amplitude a little added than a year ago. In “Blue Rain” (2018), he depicts a dejected aisle arch through a acreage of white flowers to a abode abutting a backwoods of tall, beeline trees. Part of a all-inclusive abounding moon dips bottomward into the painting’s top edge. What differentiates this from his beforehand paintings is the added band of askew brushstrokes advertence rain. As in “Blue Night” and “Path to the Sea,” there is article allusive about the incongruity. In “Blue Rain,” it seems to be aqueous torrentially on the night of a abounding moon. The moon, anon aloft the house, is like a alarm allegorical us to shelter. The rain, however, becomes a blind of marks amid the eyewitness from the house.
In “Look, the Moon” (2019), Wong waited until the oil acrylic was dry and sticky, rather than bland and creamy, afore applying it to the apparent — instead of audible brushstrokes and marks, the apparent is textured and seems gummy. This advised move evokes a backwoods abounding of ache copse partly abashing the moon, which is affected by two leafless besom trees.
In these abundantly austere paintings, Wong arrive the eyewitness to be a aloof eyewitness or sojourner. He never adumbrated what awaits us at the end of our journey. He seamlessly chip contradictions into his works so that they acknowledge themselves slowly. Wong did so abundant in a abbreviate aeon — about seven years — I don’t anticipate a faculty of accident will anytime leave me back I anticipate about him or attending at his work.
Matthew Wong: Dejected continues at Karma (188 East 2nd St. and 172 East 2nd St., Manhattan) through January 5.
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