ABDUL LATIFF MOHIDIN
b. Negeri Sembilan, 1941
Oil on canvas
181cm x 90cm, diptych
Private collection, Kuala Lumpur; acquired directly from the
Private collection, Kuala Lumpur.
ESTIMATE RM 250,000 - 350,000
PRICE REALISED RM 396,000
“Latiff’s work is very strong. He is the last Southeast Asian artist working in the classical tradition of oil and canvas.”
- Marjorie Chu, Artforum, Singapore
Mindscape was conceived as a dramatic shift in every possible angle: the deliberation of cultural motifs from the previous series is absent - taking centre stage is the systematic composition and precise brushwork. The Mindscape series explores the relationship between shape, form, colour, symmetry, perspective and the mind of the artist. It represents the most contemplative and delicate works from the artist’s outstanding oeuvre of abstract paintings. Having emerged in 1973, an important turning point in the artist’s life marked by marriage and steady career, it signified a departure from the rawness and spontaneity of the Pago-Pago.
A typical Mindscape projects a dome-shaped structure housing a dynamic explosion of free flowing colours and forms which is immaculately executed, leaving out the hand of the artist. The motif is mindfully placed at the focal point of the canvas compelling the viewers to turn inwards into one’s inner preoccupation. This piece on offer carries the same description with the suggestive windows drawing one into an introspective process but with a much rarer quality – a pair of Mindscapes assembled as one! The result is meditative, reflective and it seemingly becomes less aloof with the uncharacteristic yellow and blue combination.
The top half shows the dome in warm hues of yellow and a lighter shade of blue at the centre gives the illusion of depth and distance, as if inviting the viewer to step into another dimension beyond the canvas surface. Translucent drips flowing downwards disappear as they meet the horizontal line. Its reflection however marks the contrary, where cool dark blue dominates the outer dome motif and the warmth of the orange and yellow fills the inner, with hints of white drips surfacing the outer dome and a stalagmite-like form rising above from the inside. The inverted complementary colour combination suggests an inversed depth, where the inner dome is now closer to the viewer while the outer dome is projected into distance. The interplay and juxtaposition of colour and symmetry of form within the double Mindscape have triumphantly made it one of a kind.
The fusing of two reflective and inverted Mindscapes becomes greater than just the sum of two Mindscapes. It effectively projects a cryptic portal inviting the viewer into a spiritual transcendence, entering from the top window through another realm and exiting from the bottom dome. The absence of the totemic biomorphic forms of Pago-Pago sprouting from the horizon signalled that Latiff had turned inwards towards his inner thoughts. The volatile drips and expressionistic splatters and strokes set within the boundaries are in stark contrast to the perfectly composed dome structures, providing glimpses to the gestural Gelombang series to come.
What sets Latiff apart from his peers is his high seriousness of purpose and his pursuit for “the fusion of aesthetics and ethics”. Latiff is focused and persistent in his art-making career: “I prefer to take the series through and through – until it is exhausted technically – then I stop.”
Latiff Mohidin held his first one-man show at the age of eleven, a remarkable event which hailed him as a ‘wonder-boy’. He had spent the year before drawing and painting portraits on the pavement outside Raffles Hotel in Singapore to earn money to purchase art materials. “The exhibition was my first realisation that I enjoyed painting and drawing,” Latiff reminisces.
Upon completing his secondary school education, Latiff won a scholarship from the German government to study art at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Berlin in 1960. Commenting on this fortunate event, “In retrospect, I think I was very lucky to have been sent to Germany and not to London where most Malaysians were sent. It gave me a broader exposure to Europe, in part because I was alone and had to mix with my German contemporaries.” The benefit of being exposed to the German language had certainly impacted Latiff’s pursuit to translate the plays of Buchner’s Woyzeck and Goethe’s Faust. The latter has also resulted to the collection of Serangga which was exhibited at Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara Malaysia’s museum earlier this year. The series consisted of 33 mixed media pieces worked on hand-made Tibetan paper, depicting the insect world.
Over 300 works spanning 60 years of Latiff’s creative career is currently on view at 6 Decades of Latiff Mohidin: A Retrospective exhibition at the National Visual Arts Gallery, Kuala Lumpur which runs till June 2013.
Abdul Latiff Mohidin is a national treasure, much admired for his oeuvre in painting, printmaking and sculptures as well as his poetry and books on aesthetics. Interest in Latiff has risen greatly in recent years, as he is the only survivor of the Big Three of Malaysian Abstractions – the two others being Datuk Ibrahim Hussein and Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal. Further to his graduation from the German academy, DAAD (Deutscher Akademescher AustGuschdientst), he explored printmaking at the Atelier La Courrier in Paris and the Pratt Institute in New York in 1969. His first major art prize was the Second Prize (Graphic) in the 1968 Salon Malaysia. As a writer, he won the Malaysian Literary Awards consecutively from 1972 to1976, the coveted Southeast Asian Writers Award in Bangkok in 1984, and the National Literary Award in 1984 and 1986. He was a Creative Fellow at Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1977 and a Guest Writer of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1988.
Pago-Pago to Gelombang: 40 Years of Latiff Mohidin, Singapore Art Museum, 1994.
L.I.N.E. Latiff Mohidin: From Point To Point, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, 1993 (translated by Adibah Amin).
Garis: Works On Paper – From Berlin to Samarkand, 2004.
Journeys through Southeast Asia, Ceritalah 2, Kalim Raslan, Times Books International, 2002.