Lot 4 | Auction XXXVIIII



Lot 4


B. N. Sembilan, 1941

Siri Pago Pago, 1966

Signed and dated “AL 66” on lower right
Poem on the verso written by Latiff Mohidin

Pen on paper

15 x 10.5 cm 

RM 12,000 – RM 20,000

Provenance Formerly in the Collection of Mr. Patrick J. Murphy, Ireland (This Siri Pago Pago, 1966 sketch was a little parting gift from the artist to Patrick Murphy)

Born in 1941, Abdul Latiff Mohidin is famously known as a poet an artist who trained in art at Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Germany, Atelier La Courriere in France and Pratt Graphic Centre in America. He has received honours and awards such as the Salon Malaysia’s 1968 second prize in Graphic Design and the Malaysian Literary Awards for four years in a row, the National Literary Award in 1984 and 1986 and the Southeast Asian Writers Award in 1984 for writing.

Latiff’s Pago-Pago series traces a developmental phase in his practice throughout the 1960s as he sojourned around Europe and Southeast Asia. This particular pen on paper artwork is entitled ‘Siri Pago Pago’ and uses strokes to create a warrior-like subject. At first glance, many may see it as a simple sketch but the immaculate detail and creative flair in the work is like no other.

You speak fondly of the museums and galleries in Malaysia. How were you introduced to them?

Tan Sri Mubin Sheppard introduced me to the vibrant Malaysian art scene. We visited Museum Negara to see artefacts and attended the Festival of SouthEast Asian Arts in 1969. Through an invitation from Zain Azraai and his wife Dawn, I visited Galeri II where we saw a wonderful exhibition of relatively recent paintings by Abdul Latiff Mohidin and met the artist for the first time. We immediately bought two ravishingly beautiful oil paintings and a print tiled Rumbia, to decorate our new home. Latiff was close to my own age and his affable nature drew us closer. We became friends and socialised with each other. He left his record player and portable music collection with us when he travelled to the Pratt Institute in New York. I persuaded him to stop over in Dublin en route, and he did so, meeting some young Irish artists that I had known.

We kept in contact for many years afterwards, and we progressively bought more works. I considered Latiff the outstanding painter of Malaysia at that time. He seemed to capture the soul of his homeland, as Armenian painter Arshile Gorky did when he moved to the USA. Besides Latiff’s artworks, we also bought works by Arthur Yap, Jolly Koh and Cheong Lai Tong from the Salon Malaysia exhibition that year, and came to know those artists too. Contemporary Malaysian art then was more imaginative than what was happening in Ireland, and it advanced my taste. The incredible landscapes painted by Yeo Jin Leng and the batik paintings of Seah Kim Joo gained our admiration while learning about Ismail Hussein and his influence in the industry, in 1970. I am not so familiar with the current art scene in KL but I remember during my last visit 20 years ago, that many promising young artists had arrived on the scene.

What drew you to Latiff Mohidin’s works?

I loved Latiff’s paintings at first sight, from instinct. Here was the soul of Malaysia painted by a true poet! They were simply beautiful, skillful and uniquely imaginative.

One of the first few of Latiff’s works that you bought was the Siri Pago Pago-Debris. How would you describe this work?

Siri Pago Pago-Debris was the glorious first painting that I bought in the spring of 1969 from the Galeri II exhibition, and it remains my favourite and has adorned our home for 50 years. Latiff told me the inspiration for it was a chaotic rubbish dump encountered in Bangkok on his travels. Here, the artist has transformed and elevated a banal subject into a sublime work of art, transcending beauty, speaks to the heart, captures the eyes, and smoulders on the mind forever. Truly, a glorious painting, full of emotion.

How was your friendship with Latiff Mohidin forged? Latiff and I just liked each other from our first meeting and the friendship endured – we socialised. I sent Irish painter Barrie Cooke to meet him and they also became friends and admirers. All three of us read the poems of Irish poet Seamus Heaney who later won a Nobel Prize.

How many of Latiff Mohidin’s works have you collected to date?

I think I ended up with about 10 works by Latiff, over the years, including drawings. I intended to buy one every year but circumstances did not result in that happening. His art gives me great joy.