1948 - 2012
Tony Wong was born in Taishan County in China’s Guangdong Province in 1948. In 1966, he left Hong Kong and emigrated to the United States where he began studies at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1968. He studied his master’s degree at University of California, Berkeley, after which he left Berkeley in 1975 and took a position as assistant professor of art at the Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. In 1977, Wong walked away from teaching and headed off to develop in the art scene of New York City.
“Narrative” is a key, fundamental characteristic of Wong’s work. His works often show a distinct trait of storytelling. Wong says as a child he listened to his grandmother tell countless Chinese folk tales and these later became the inspiration and source material for his works. Despite that, his works do not necessarily provide any specific plot line. In a brief essay, the American art critic Gerrit Henry (1950-2003) wrote: “While his paintings sometimes evoke the Chinese legends his grandmother told him as a child, they depend not so much on any specific legend as much as on the power of images to suggest a story that is meaningful to all. “ In other words, although Wong broadly draws upon mythological, legendary and classical literary themes, he avoids sinking into mere illustrative interpretation through deft tinkering. “My paintings can tell stories but have no fixed meaning,” Wong has said.
“Ultimately, it is up to the observer to draw their own conclusions as to the meaning.” After the transformation, the narrative characteristics of Wong’s works remain but the storylines are concealed, leaving only the situations. As such, his works leave space for the open analysis and interpretation of the observer. Despite Wong’s insistence that he has little interest in a dialectic between Western and Eastern painting, his incorporation of traditional Chinese mythology, legends and narratives into his works seems to have begun at least as early as 1983. When toying with new ideas, Wong has always generally first produced a prototype in oil pastel on paper before moving on to produce the full-sized work in oil. He then takes the heavy use of oil pigments a step further and develops it into a “3-D painting.” His sculptures retain the flat, two-dimensional compositional concept with a largely frontal orientation more closely related to painting. The heavy layering and sense of commotion in the three-dimensional oils are, of course, not only capable of driving an emotional response in the observer, but they also call to mind passion and powerful expressive style of that vanguard of modern painting Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).
Extract from Chia Chi Jason WANG “Solitude in Paradise- Tony Wong’s Artistic Journey”