Cruel World
It was some years ago that I came across Latif Maulan in the cyber world, and later took effort to meet him personally in his home town Bentong, Pahang. The meeting had me a little confused as I was expecting to see this self-taught maestro as someone elderly. 

Tipah Ikan Segar, 2006
Was this the man, or should I say the young man who manifested “Cruel World”, “Tipah Ikan Segar” that reflect the challenges of urban life among the less fortunate, and many other contemporary works that had captured my imagination? Seeing is believing.

 I have seen his works mostly on the net (maybe I was a Johnny came lately), since most of them have been in collectors’ hand either locally or somewhere in Columbia, the USA, Australia, Japan, and…you name it. I have the opportunity of seeing some of the just-finished products during that meeting in Bentong and I was able to observe his patience and dexterity in rendering the touch-ups as pure poetry. The subjects’ matters projected then were mostly of “what you see is what you and everyone else gets”. As I went through some of the available works in his “studio” I was quite perplexed to notice that there was no glaringly rough brush marks on any of those pieces, even though layers upon layers of paints had been applied on for each and every one of his works. It was like looking at some imposing glossy cinema posters.

Kupu Kupu Malam
Of late, most of his subjects’ matters are more of the mind-tingling and food for thoughts in nature. Mercurial. That is what I figure of Latif Maulan’s thinking box when he expounds certain social issues or ills, the oil-on-canvas way. “Kupu-kupu Malam” literally is butterflies (ladies) of the evening, a profession as old as the mountains. It prevails due to the basic rule of supply and demand.

 It takes two to tango. That reminds us whether the practice is by design or has fate put its foot on it. Adulterated and polluted, that leads to being unwanted, that is “Cemar”. If it is air pollution, then the gas mask is in order. But when that happens to mankind (I mean womankind) then many things are not in order especially in this part of the world where chastity is the running word of the day. Here the blame game is on - that is blaming it on society. The bottom line is, education and conscience can help to eradicate pollution of both the physical environment and mankind themselves.

The Games of Life
Cemar , 2011
The games of chess and Monopoly can be time-consuming but fun to play. Give it to Latif and he can conjure it up to be a totally new board game on the canvas. I could still recall the piece that was flown to Columbia, “The Game of Life” hinting that you or I could be just a pawn being manipulated to be the sacrificial lamb in a political game of the free market. 

Now, fresh from the easel and to meet you in this show is “The Monopolygamy”, a term coined by the artist. Again, here Latif juggles the mind – the cross roads here is whether she is willing to share her man’s love with another woman? Or does she have to accept it due to her own natural shortcomings or because the dice was not in her favour? This can be avoided if she is diligent enough to find ways out of these cross-roads failing which the dice of fate rules. The choice is hers.

The Monopolygamy
Tenggelam (Frozen) 2011
The Labyrinth of Nowhere by Latif Maulan
The Labyrinth of Nowhere 2011
Similarly “Tenggelam” is the predicament of our women in their earthly pursuit which along the way many drowned into oblivion. Chasing rainbows hoping to grab that pot of gold, those Pradas and Louis Vittons and high end what-have-yous could be a disastrous adventure. Worse, if it becomes an obsession with nightmarish hay wired thoughts which“The Labyrinth of Nowhere”. Please note it happens to our men folks as well. These two art works depict tragedies that befell women out of their own doing. 

The Victim 2011
in the end you are the ultimate loser… that is if you are not that cunning in maneuvering the mazes of life as in  “The Victim”, though depicting the same scenario Latif did it with a twist.  Have you ever given a thought how those “lonesome” guys at the construction camps or any other faraway sweaty work places express their animalistic or biological urge? I said ‘lonesome”. For the enterprising lot this situation is a gold mine…never mind the “pimp” label, after all things in the market, hooks lines and sinkers have labels. And sex is an industry by itself if that is what those industrious scoundrels choose to acknowledge it. But a ladle is still a ladle given by any other names. And the victim is, you don’t have to mention it.

With apologies to the feminine gender Latif certainly and literally does not liken women to whales of the deep blue ocean as can be seen in “Evolution”. He has different ideas regarding the two subjects herewith. The latter being our long-distant aquatic relatives and presently the need to conserve it is paramount. The same hospitality towards the former (though non-aquatic) is in order if not to a higher level.

The Ribs
While this time around Latif is portraying women as the victims of circumstances, at the same time he portrays them as the inseparable entity of the masculine gender and vice versa as depicted in The Ribs”. This piece of work was inspired by the surah An-Nisa (of the Quran) verse 4.1 serving as a reminder that “Allah created man (Adam) from a single soul and there from created his mate/wife (Hawa), and from the twain spread abroad a multitude of men and women… thus mankind should maintain a cordial relationship between the two and be subservient to Him…”

Anything or anybody that or whom we cherished needs to be handled with utmost care lest we might end up the losers. “Fragile” symbolizes just that. The existence of mankind is to look after the wellbeing of mother earth – raping it would annihilate us sooner or later. Treat a woman fairly and you will live a happy life, do it otherwise and you will know that hell has no fury like a woman’s scorn. 

“Fragile II” has a similar message. Do not mistreat our women folks. They might look fragile and vulnerable. You can play around with them, roll them or toss them around or you can even play ball with them but if you do it too often and to the extreme you might unwittingly pull the safety pin off their rockers. The pineapples have thorns too.

  As a whole, the works rendered here typify the somber mood of the key figures (women) because Latif is zeroing in on their misadventures or the dark situations affecting them. This is what Latif is expounding.. Perhaps the next time around he will conjure a livelier scenario. I am sure the windmills in Latif will do just that


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