“From a very young age, there on the beach in Puntarenas, seeing the stars inspired me. So I almost dare to say that I have been an artist for about 92 years, because I saw the stars and told my mom how beautiful the sky was. I more or less believe that, between engravings, drawings, sculptures and sketches, I have made more than 5,000 works during my career and I’m still going,” said Con Wong.
Isidro Con Wong (Puntarenas, February 25, 1931) is a Costa Rican artist, painter and sculptor of Chinese origin. Born in the city of Puntarenas, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the son of Chinese immigrants from the province of Cantón-Zhongshan, in China.
As a child he was sent to China, where he received an early education in Canton, Macao, and Hong Kong. Upon his return to Costa Rica, in 1951, he dedicated himself to agriculture, fishing, and cattle raising in Paquera and the Gulf of Nicoya. He also worked as a shoe manufacturer and industrial-merchant. Since he was 40 years old, he has dedicated himself exclusively to his art.
Having been educated in China during his youth, he was in contact with various Chinese schools. This allowed him to come into contact with the culture of his ancestors, their language, writing, food and traditions, which he incorporates into his art. Since his period as a farmer and his work on the farm were an important period in his life, he incorporated many of these elements of the countryside -particularly cattle- and landscapes of his native Puntarenas in his paintings and sculptures in bronze and wood. , which combined with the influence of Chinese culture has allowed him to create a personal style. Being mostly self-taught, his art has been classified within psychological nativism.
His works are characterized mainly by the use of color, in whose combinations he includes artistic and personal tricks. Using rubbing and brush techniques, the paintings acquire a magical feeling due to their shine and luminosity. A characteristic of his works is the inclusion, within the base of the painting, of forms typical of Chinese calligraphy that are not immediately noticeable to the naked eye, which is why his work is related, in a certain way, to the painting of instinctive painters.
During his career, he has had 20 individual exhibitions and multiple collective exhibitions in the United States of America, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Taiwan, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and other countries. Some 14 permanent collections are located in various museums around the world, such as the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Taipei Fine Art Museum, Taiwan, Republic of China; Overseas Chinese Office, Zhongshan, and Zhongshan City Hall, People’s Republic of China; the Ministry of Culture and Education of Hangzhou Province, People’s Republic of China; the Monaco Art Center, Monte Carlo, Monaco; Collection of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, San José, Costa Rica; the Zhongshan Art Museum, People’s Republic of China, the European Academy of Scences, Arts and Letters, Paris, France, and the Miniature Museum, National Art Museum Collection, San José, Costa Rica, among others.
One of his greatest achievements has been his record of six consecutive participations in the Monte Carlo International Grand Prix, in addition to other awards such as the Princess Carolina de Monte Carlo Honorary Distinction, and being an Honorary Member of the European Academy of Arts and Letters Sciences, Nice, France.
One of the most recognized Costa Rican painters
Isidro is one of the most recognized Costa Rican painters, his works have been exhibited on all continents and he has been awarded multiple times. He has the Princess Carolina de Monte Carlo Honor Distinction and is an Honorary Member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, in Nice, France.
His original style, recognized as “The magical world of Isidro Con Wong” is also empirical, Don Isidro never took a single art lesson, but he felt it in his veins, even from a very young age. He recognizes himself as a trunk that keeps memories and feels that everything is summed up in: “it’s like God gave me that gift… wow, that’s going to be his university.” His work is based on his experiences; Inspiration comes from day to day… From those long days as a fisherman or from the endless pastures on his farms where animals were his friends.
He formally began in art when he was 40 years old after extensive work experience in the field and at sea. In the 1970s, he decided to face his father’s designs, put aside traditional work and give free rein to his passion. A passion that made him fly without him noticing and that maintains a flame in his soul that is difficult to put out. The desire to paint and that thirst for new works remain as if it were the first day he picked up a brush.
Don Isidro downplays the value of his works today and although he is aware of the weight of his name in the international artistic world, it is not a subject that keeps him awake. He paints to satisfy his desire for art.
Entering Isidro Con Wong’s studio is entering a magical dimension, in which the landscapes of Puntarenas come alive with the colors of the painter’s soul. The paintings seem like doors to the dreams of this artist, who transports us to an encrypted language of symbols.
Beaches with mangroves, bulls multiplied to infinity, fishing boats, suns on fire, stars at night, Isidro Con Wong’s gaze on his homeland resounds in the sculptures and paintings on display in this refuge in the heart of Pavas.
“For me, painting is living, breathing, it is pure poetry made of colours”, Isidro declares when starting the conversation. “I started painting from my mother’s stomach”, she tells us; that woman who, according to her words, traveled from China to marry her father. Isidro is one of eight siblings and while evoking his mother, he comments: “as a child I could feel her sadness, when she cried, I cried from her stomach.” The sadness, according to her fragmented story, of leaving all her loved ones and traveling to Costa Rica, a land unknown to her. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps simply because of his skin-deep sensitivity, Isidro the boy felt that his thing was fantasy, the dreamlike.
Despite being the only artist to break the record of six consecutive participations in the Monte Carlo International Grand Prix, in addition to receiving others, such as the Princess Carolina de Monte Carlo Honorary Distinction, and being an Honorary Member of the European Academy of Sciences Art and Letters, Isidro tells us that he doesn’t care about prizes. He says it with disdain, playful, like someone who rebels against worldly achievements.
However, despite not caring about the prizes, Isidro does care about leaving a mark. For this reason, when we ask him what he would like to say to young Costa Ricans, from his privileged role as a cultural figure, he does not hesitate and tells us: “it seems selfish, but I would tell them to see my works, because they say everything I can.” give them”. Isidro, with few words, emphasizes that his voice is in his paintings, what he wants to express is there, within sight. The bulls, the immense landscapes and the tiny figures, lost in the canvas, transmit the smallness of the human being before the wonder of nature.
Rancher, fisherman and farmer, became an international painter and artist. His carved face tells a thousand stories, many difficult to decipher. His paintings, on the other hand, are transparent, luminous, floating. The aerial landscapes of an idealized Costa Rica. Nature reigns, peace and stillness prevail. Isidro says that he dreams and that when he dreams, he paints.
He showes his Costa Rica, that of Puntarenas, that of generous almond trees, immense skies, and night stars, that of silences filled with sounds, pilgrim fishermen, and desolate coasts rich in fish.
An exhibition for all to enjoy and admire
Until April 30th, the entire first floor of the National Gallery will present a free exhibition, which will pay homage to the more than 50-year artistic career of painter and sculptor Isidro Con Wong.
The exhibition “The Magic World of Isidro Con Wong” will have a total of 57 paintings in medium and large formats, as well as 7 iconic bronze sculptures, among which magical realism, monochromes and sculpture stand out.
Throughout his artistic career, Con Wong developed seven artistic periods using acrylic and mixed media, known as: magical realism, monochrome, fantastic realism, bicolor, transition, drawings, fantastic calligraphy, and sculptures, periods that today position him as one of the leading artists. from Costa Rica.
Celebrating the 50-year artistic career of this painter and sculptor is the goal of the new exhibition at the National Gallery, which you can visit for free.The exhibition will remain open during March and until April 30, bringing together works charged with color, texture, and the characteristic presence of bulls, fish, nature, and magical elements in his works.
For more information, the public can visit the CR National Gallery Facebook page or send a WhatsApp message to 7003 7070.