Tony Wong, born in Guangdong Province, China in 1948, left Hong Kong in 1966 and emigrated to the United States where he began studies at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1968. He received his master's Degree of Fine Arts at University of California, Berkeley, after which he 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 world of New York City. Though Tony Wong lived thru the “first generation” of Chinese immigrant artist living in the avant-garde art world of New York city of the 70's and 80's, his work has always been tied to his emotional link to his roots and nostalgia of his childhood years, using images from his Chinese mythologies, folklores and fables. His figures are whimsical characters deriving from these stories, while at the same time they are not unlike his own self portraits - a naive country folk living in the "Big Apple"! Very unfortunately, Tony passed away in 2012.
Tony Wong’s paintings pull the viewer into a mysterious labyrinth of human figures and landscape that allude to Chinese and Western fables and mythology. The images, expressed in layers of thick paint strokes, appear to depict romantic love and passion, yet below the colourful surface is a sense foreboding, unleashed desire, and at times loneliness. Closer examination reveals strange miniature configurations emerging from the forest of paint. Are these paintings about dreams, fantasies, or nightmares?
There is a childlike naïveté and simple directness in Tony Wong’s work. Beyond is a complex world of anxiety, strange desires, twisted humanity, and sexuality – which he expresses with a mature, sophisticated sense of humour. The work is powerful, as it reflects conflict and contradiction. It is beautiful because the paint is so “physical”, and the colours convey strength and passion. And it is intriguing, as it challenges one’s imagination and quest to understand life’s symbols.