A Brief Window
MASSIMODECARLO is delighted to announce A Brief Window, late artist Matthew Wong's first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, premiering a collection of ink on rice paper works created between 2015 and 2017. A Brief Window is an endeavour to highlight self-taught Canadian artist Matthew Wong’s graphic, incisive and imaginative expressionism.
Drawing inspiration alternatively from nature and landscapes, Wong's delicate compositions celebrate both darkness and light, exploring abstract and otherworldly realms. His virtuosity in blending styles has prompted comparisons to a pantheon of art historical movements and painters.
In just a few years after earning his MFA in photography at the City University of Hong Kong School of Creative Media in 2013, Wong began developing his exquisitely appealing pictorial language. His paintings, which often portrayed Dantesque forests incorporating a faux-naïf style reminiscent of Paul Klee, were infused with an extraordinarily sophisticated psychological depth combined with richly layered imagery.
Despite his self-taught background, Wong sought to engage in broader artistic dialogue. Driven by his relentless pursuit of visual knowledge, He wholeheartedly immersed himself in the history of art. As eloquently expressed by Massimiliano Gioni, art historian, curator, and artistic director of the New Museum in New York: Pierre Bonnard, Caspar David Friedrich, Paul Gauguin, and Édouard Vuillard are just some of the names that recurrently crop up in reviews and comments on his work - not to mention references to Chinese calligraphy and Australian Aboriginal painting. Despite its arcadian, even primitivist subjects, Wong’s art is extremely aware of its precedents, full of layered references to art history, sophisticated almost to the point of affectation—his landscapes encrusted with shards of beauty borrowed from centuries of pictorial traditions.
Wong's paintings thus hold within them a subtle complexity, their initial simplicity giving way to a universe of chromatic, spatial, and psychological intricacies. Whether portraying realistic landscapes or conjuring dreamlike realms, Wong's work exudes an urgent energy that imposes the artist's presence on the rice paper and within the broader context of art history.
Through his deft use of murky black lines and nuanced shading, Wong presents complex interior worlds inhabited by solitary figures and human forms that are both familiar and alien. In these mysterious landscapes, Wong's imagery evokes a sense of introspection and contemplation. Wong’s paintings and drawings are inner cartographies, weaving marks not only into visions of the outside world but also into complex landscapes of the soul. He knew his drawings were emotional seismographs, even more sensitive than his paintings: “I may really be a black-and-white ink painter at the core of my project,” he explained at the beginning of his career. “There is something destroying the past in these ink paintings… much more so than in the colour works which seem to ‘fit in’ more expectedly with certain norms,” continues to explain Gioni.
As the exhibition title suggests, Wong invites viewers to peer briefly into the window of his inner world, where distant realms dwell in the collective psyche. The landscapes blend with human figures, and nature seems to come to life, blurring the lines between what is real and what is imagined, what we are reminded of and what it is. Wong's work invites us to step into a world where the boundaries between the internal and external are delightfully hazy.
Wong’s drawings are free of any responsibility to describe a landscape or build a world. And so, standing before them, we might echo what he himself insightfully wrote about the work of Lebanese painter and writer Etel Adnan: “The longer one looks, the more hesitant one becomes to name the object of looking, and all that one is left with is the act of looking itself.”