Van Gogh Museum showcases kindred Canadian-Chinese artist Matthew Wong


By AGENCY

A Canadian-Chinese painter whose expressive brush strokes, vivid colours and troubled life drew comparisons with Van Gogh stars in a new show at the Amsterdam museum named after the Dutch genius.

Painting As A Last Resort at the Van Gogh Museum is Europe's first look at more than 60 works of Matthew Wong, whose intense output and style put him "on the cusp of fame" before he died at his own hand in 2019.

Colourful, enigmatic fantasy landscapes with high horizon lines - often painted in melancholic blues - tell the story of Wong, who like Van Gogh felt isolated from the world.

"I see myself in him. The impossibility of belonging in this world," the museum quoted Wong as saying of the Dutch post-Impressionist.

Wong himself is often depicted as a small human figure somewhere in the painting, conveying the sense of an outsider.

"There's so many similarities to Van Gogh's approach to painting," said the exhibition's curator Joost van der Hoeven.

"Wong taught himself to paint at the age of 27, just like Vincent. There's the expressive brush work and use of colour," he said on Wednesday at a press preview of the exhibit.

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

Stricken by poverty and mental illness, Van Gogh took his own life in France, aged 37.

Wong moved between Canada and Hong Kong throughout his life and started painting eight years before his death at 35, calling it a "last resort."

His breakthrough came around 2017, when his lush fantasy landscape The Other Side Of The Moon and other works caught the eye of art collectors in the United States.

Critics hailed his exhibitions, with the New York Times in 2019 lauding him as "one of the most talented painters of his generation."

'Melancholy'

But Wong had a life-long struggle with depression, autism and Tourette's syndrome "and had trouble with connecting with other people," the Van Gogh Museum said.

On social media like Facebook he found a like-minded community from whom he learnt a great deal about life as an artist.

Apart from Van Gogh, Wong also drew inspiration from a wide range of other painters including Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

"It's so much more than just, 'Oh, here's Vincent influencing Wong'," said Van Gogh Museum director Emilie Gordenker.

"Wong was an incredibly talented artist who had a big range, a real emotional directness, a great painter" in his own right, she said.

Wong's landscapes show Van Gogh's influence but the Canadian-Chinese artist "developed his very own language," she added.

"There are often references in his work that give it a sense of melancholy and sadness," Gordenker added.

There are other differences too.

"Unlike Van Gogh, Wong's talent was more widely recognised during his short and tempestuous career," the Van Gogh Museum said.

"Matthew Wong, a painter on the cusp of fame, dies at 35" read an obituary in the New York Times after Wong's death in October 2019.

Opening on Friday, the show runs until Sept 1. - AFP

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