Wesley Tongson was born in Hong Kong in 1957. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 15, a condition that together with a fervent commitment to Zen philosophy shaped his bold artistic vision and his life. At the age of 17, Wesley commenced to formally paint, at first in a manner inspired by the Chinese literati style, wenren hua.
In 1977, Tongson moved to Toronto, Canada, where he studied Western painting at the Ontario College of Art and Chinese brush painting with the renowned Madame Gu Qingyao (1896-1978). It was at this time that Tongson also began to explore and to teach himself splash ink painting — and for which, eventually, Tongson would himself become best known.
Tongson returned to Hong Kong in 1981, where he continued his studies with Harold Wong (Huang Zhongfang, b.1943) as well as Liu Kuo-Sung (b.1932). He continued to form his own style of Chinese landscape art, breaking away from traditional forms of Chinese landscape painting. During the latter half of the 1980s, these early works were shown in several solo exhibitions and in the 1988 group show, “Modern Chinese Paintings by Five Artists,” at the Hong Kong City Hall.
Throughout the 1990s, Tongson explored ways of integrating his splash ink methods with traditional Chinese brushstroke techniques. His work was shown to acclaim at solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States and at the group shows “New Trends – Art Hong Kong” in 1994 and “Art Asia” in 1995.
Beginning in 2001, he also started to experiment with finger painting. In 2009, Tongson abandoned the brush and painted directly with his fingers and fingernails, creating emotionally communicative and powerful pieces, a hallmark of his mature period.
Since his death in 2012, Tongson’s work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions, most notably, a retrospective at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in November 2014 and at the Chinese Cultural Center in San Francisco from October 2018 to March 2019. His work is in collections including the Hong Kong Museum of Art and M+ Museum in Hong Kong, the USC Pacific Asia Museum in the United States as well as numerous public and private collections worldwide.