Yan Wong

The Realm of Blue

Matthew Wong's dedication to art

Matthew Wong (1984-2019) was a Canadian artist often hailed as the "Modern Van Gogh". From his unique approach to landscapes to his enduring impact on the art world, let's delve into his remarkable journey and discover how Matthew's artistic legacy continues to inspire, especially among neurodivergent creatives.

In the realm of contemporary art, the legendary figure causing waves is none other than Matthew Wong. Born in 1984 in Toronto, Canada, and having spent significant periods of his life in both Hong Kong and Canada, Matthew's story is nothing short of extraordinary.

Matthew Wong's rise in the art world remains one of the most intriguing tales of the past half-century. A self-taught artist, he gained widespread recognition within just five years of his focused artistry. His debut solo exhibition in 2018 in New York's East Village at Karma Gallery was met with resounding acclaim, earning him the title of "An unforgettable newcomer" by renowned art critic Roberta Smith of The New York Times. 

Unfortunately, in 2019, after enduring the torment of Tourette's syndrome, autism, and depression, Matthew Wong tragically took his own life at the age of 35. A month after Matthew's passing at age 35, Karma Gallery held a second solo exhibition titled "Blue," which Smith described as his "Final Rhapsody" and declared him "one of the most talented painters of his generation". The colour blue plays a prominent role in many of Wong's paintings, including his painting 'Unknown Pleasures' which you can see below. 


Matthew Wong, Unknown Pleasures, 2019, Museum of Modern Art, New York - © 2023 Matthew Wong Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital Image MoMA .

A role model for perseverance 

"After graduating from university, I returned to Hong Kong with my parents. I worked at human resources consulting firms, accounting firms, and publishing houses, but I never felt motivated. I felt that these jobs were not quite suited for me" - Matthew Wong in an interview.

Battling mental health challenges, Tourette's syndrome, and autism throughout his life, Matthew discovered a profound medium of expression through his art. He pursued a path less travelled, opting for self-study in painting after obtaining a Master's degree in photography from the City University of Hong Kong, where he began to wield the brush.

"One day after school, I passed by a stationery store and, feeling bored, went in to buy a sketchbook and an ink pen. When I got home, I randomly splattered ink on the paper and found the forms to be beautiful. That's how I began my first experience with painting" - Matthew Wong in an interview.

As he immersed himself in books and online forums, studying the works of artistic luminaries like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse, his own artistic identity began to take shape. Sharing his artworks on social media eventually led to opportunities at the Karma Gallery in New York, starting with group exhibitions and culminating in his solo showcase. 

His artwork, which some liken to the works of Vincent van Gogh, exudes a distinct sensitivity and control. His paintings often depicted scenes from his imagination, inspired by memories, photographs, and his emotional experiences. Matthew's art was noted for its ability to evoke a sense of longing, nostalgia, and a feeling of being transported to another world.

Matthew Wong's artistic exploration, whether of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Canada, or his own envisioned landscapes, remains an inspiration to all creatives, neurodivergent or not. His dedication to his craft, despite personal struggles, reminds us that embracing our unique perspectives can lead to profound expressions of beauty and emotion. 

Matthew Wong at the Van Gogh museum 

An upcoming exhibition of "Matthew Wong l Vincent van Gogh: Painting as a Last Resort" will take place at Van Gogh Museum from 1 March 2024 to September 2024. Click here for more information. 


Christies. (2020, November 19). ‘Hallucinatory pilgrimages’: the beautiful, melancholy genius of Matthew Wong

Ming Pao. (2016, January 12). Uniquely Different: Transforming the Experience of Tourette's Syndrome into Inspiration, Overcoming the Rocky Path with a Paintbrush [與別不童﹕妥瑞症經歷化成靈感 畫筆戰勝崎嶇路].

Wu, R. (2021, January 21). Continuously Creating "Modern Van Gogh" with Sky-High Auction Prices: Exploring Artist Matthew Wong's Natural Enclaves on Canvas [不斷創造拍賣天價的「現代梵谷」,在畫布上探尋藝術家王俊傑的自然秘境]. Harpers Bazaar.

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