Matthew Wong | Vincent van Gogh: Painting as a Last Resort

At the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, from March 1st until September 1st, 2024.

This retrospective shows the colourful and expressive work of Matthew Wong (1984-2019) alongside that of one of his most significant sources of inspiration.

Matthew Wong, The Space Between Trees, 2019, Private Collection © Matthew Wong Foundation c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2023

The exhibition explores the work of Matthew Wong and his undeniable artistic and personal connection with Vincent van Gogh. Wong rapidly developed a highly personal style with exuberant, mystical paintings and drawings, which are acclaimed throughout the world. This is the first large overview of his work in Europe.

Who is Matthew Wong?

Matthew Wong was born in Toronto, and moved between Canada and Hong Kong throughout his life. After a range of study programmes, internships and jobs, he taught himself to be a painter. Painting was his ultimate attempt to find meaning and recognition in life. Earlier avenues all came to nothing, which is why he called painting his ‘last resort’. Wong absorbed a tremendous amount of art history, primarily online, on his way to finding his own style and place as a painter and draughtsman.

He had a lifelong struggle with depression, autism and Tourette’s syndrome, and had trouble connecting with other people. This also affected his artistic endeavours. It was only on social media that he found a community of like-minded people, from whom he learned a great deal about life as an artist, and with whom he could share his perspectives on art.

Wong channelled his online inspiration into traditional art forms: oil on canvas and ink on paper. He investigated personal subjects in his imaginary landscapes, which are full of depth and melancholy. Wong leaves behind a highly individual and emotionally charged oeuvre, for which he was acclaimed in the last years of his life.

In 2019, The New York Times lauded him as ‘one of the most talented painters of his generation’.

Matthew Wong, Coming of Age Landscape, 2018, Private Collection, Courtesy of HomeArt, 2023 © Matthew Wong Foundation c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2023

Inspired by Van Gogh

Matthew Wong was inspired by many artists, and combined examples from both European-American and Chinese art history in an original way. Vincent van Gogh’s influence on Wong is unmistakable in his expressive use of colour, the thickly-applied paint, and the personal themes. However, his connection with Van Gogh is more than artistic.

‘I see myself in him. The impossibility of belonging in this world’, said Wong in 2018.

How Wong found his calling in painting shares striking similarities with Van Gogh’s story. Both artists made their first work at the age of 27. And both Wong and Van Gogh struggled with their mental health, resulting in their tragic, untimely deaths.

Matthew Wong, The Realm of Appearances, 2018, Private Collection © Matthew Wong Foundation c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2023
Matthew Wong, See You on the Other Side, 2019, © 2023 Matthew Wong Foundation / c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2023
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