Since his sudden death in 2019, the work of painter Matthew Wong has only grown in recognition and reputation, building on an impressively diverse and evocative approach to art-making that underscores the artist’s self-taught method and brilliant eye. This self-taught exploration of the artist’s work is at the core of a new show at Cheim & Read in Chelsea, where the artist’s Ink Drawings, some of his first ventures into painting, are currently on view. Running through September 11th, the show offers a look at Wong’s early output, and the germinal state of his vision as an artist.
The 24 ink drawings displayed in the show, titled Footprints in the Wind, Ink Drawings 2013–2017, already express the artist’s tight precision and interest in the framework of expressionist painting as a mode to create a broader exploration of his craft and the world it depicts. Most of the imagery is based on nature and the landscape, while some are completely abstract, like Where Did the Time Go?, while others possess a sense of the lyrically surreal, like The Performance. Made in part during his time in Zhongshan, China and Edmonton, Canada, the show underscores the mingling together of Western iconographies with the legacy of Chinese landscape painting; the young artist’s deployment of these traditional materials — ink wash on rice paper — seems to be a direct reference to ancient tradition
Throughout these works, Wong’s celebration of light — as in the works like The Sun, and The Watcher — never excludes a dark side. Hulking black shapes sometimes dominate the images, such as the mantis-like silhouette in an untitled drawing from 2015, or the jagged rocky outcropping in Landscape of the Longing, 2016. They are, however, surrounded by bright fields of grass or sky; centralized blazing orbs in the sky beat down on the landscape.
Wong’s path through art seems to both emphasize and mitigate the darker aspects of his life, and while the artist’s untimely passing left a rift in the world around him, his work and vision lives on within the frames of these works, moments of vision that underscore a talent that left us too early.
The show is on view through September 3rd.
– D. Creahan
Matthew Wong at Cheim & Read [Exhibition Site]