Latiff, Jaafar (1937--) By Galloway, Charlotte
Jaafar Latiff, born in Singapore, established his reputation as an abstract artist in the 1960s. He was self-taught; however, his talent saw him easily find work as an art educator, a role in which he has continued for much of his career. After experimenting with Realism and later abstract painting, Latiff turned to the medium of batik—a well-known traditional technique for decorating textiles with strong ties to Malay and Indonesian identity—in the late 1960s. Latiff integrated the conventional techniques of batik with his abstracted art style, creating contemporary batik patterns that challenged preconceived ideas of tradition. He has continued to focus on the batik technique, further stretching the boundaries between tradition and transformation. Latiff’s abstractions are characterized by his generous use of color in large swaths, giving the impression of being worked on a canvas. Indeed, he experiments with acrylics in his batik works. More recently, Latiff has included Islamic motifs in some of his designs, adding a further layer of complexity to the understanding of batik, tradition, and cultural change. Recognized internationally as a leader in batik design and innovation, Latiff’s work is exhibited regularly in major exhibitions and his work is found in public and private collections.