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Singapore, 23 December 2019 Jaafar Latiff: Beyond the Familiar is the first exhibition of works by Singaporean artist Jaafar Latiff since his passing in 2007. The exhibition is on from 9 to 19 January 2020 at Artspace@Helutrans. Jaafar Latiff: Beyond the Familiar features 26 artworks spanning almost 40 years from the 1970s to the 2000s and pays tribute to one of Singapore’s leading second-generation painters.

Supported by RHT Rajan Menon Foundation, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing; and curated by independent curator Syed Muhd Hafiz, Jaafar Latiff: Beyond the Familiar sheds new light on one of Singapore’s pioneering abstract batik modernists and explores a lesser-known chapter of Singapore’s art history.

Melding abstraction with batik

Born in 1937, the self-taught Jaafar Latiff relentlessly experimented with batik and batik techniques as a means of intense personal expression and the depiction of the frenetic energy of Singapore’s modernity. Jaafar invented a lyrical modernist art form through the innovative melding of internationalist approaches towards abstraction — in particular abstract expressionism and lyrical abstraction — with batik.

He was among a handful of modernist artists who persistently explored batik as an abstract art form and his bold experimentation was seminal in contributing to reinterpretations of internationalist abstraction through local forms and techniques. Among his best remembered pieces is his exuberant batik mural Sea Port of Singapore, produced in 1987 and currently on permanent display at Bras Basah MRT station.

A testament to Jaafar’s remarkable innovations in batik over his extensive career, Jaafar Latiff: Beyond the Familiar traces his artistic evolution from his pre-abstraction days to the euphoric large-scale works painted towards the end of his life. While the exhibition features paintings from acclaimed series — including Wandering Wonder, Odyssey and Vision series to name a few — highlights also include his lesser-known computer art and calligraphic works, and the first public display of a late untitled batik painting produced in the year of his passing.

“My father was a purist as an artist and an inspired educator throughout his life. His lack of a formal education did not stop him from embarking on an artistic career that saw him continually experimenting with the traditional art form of batik, taking it to the most modern of expressions and imbuing it with the zeitgeist of his time. This exhibition is a celebration of his life and work, reminding us of his commitment and dedication to both tradition and innovation in art,” says Azman Jaafar, the eldest son of Jaafar Latiff.

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