Latiff Mohidin, the First Southeast Asian Artist to be featured in Centre Pompidou’s In-Focus Gallery
Singapore, 17 January 2018 – Centre Pompidou and National Gallery Singapore announce their latest collaboration – an exhibition focused on a key moment in the work of one of Southeast Asia’s leading modernists – Latiff Mohidin and his seminal Pago Pago series. The exhibition Latiff Mohidin: Pago Pago (1960-1969) will be Centre Pompidou’s first exhibition about Southeast Asian art held at its In-Focus Gallery. Opening on 28 February, this collaboration marks an extension of the ground-breaking project Reframing Modernism: Painting from Southeast Asia, Europe and Beyond held at National Gallery Singapore in 2016, as part of the Gallery’s ongoing commitment to promote Southeast Asian art globally.
Commenting on the exhibition, Mr Serge Lasvignes, President of the Centre Pompidou, emphasised that “Latiff Mohidin. Pago Pago (1960-1969) is further proof of our desire to link up with major institutions all over the world. Our collaboration with the National Gallery Singapore on ‘Reframing Modernism’ was an important event for us, opening new perspectives on the dialogue of cultures. This new joint project gives our audiences a marvellous chance to see major works by a great contemporary artist from Southeast Asia, within the Centre Pompidou collections.”
Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore said, “The Gallery’s curatorial efforts have sought to actively engage debates of modernism within a global context. The Gallery is delighted to continue this successful partnership with Centre Pompidou by presenting our first travelling show on Southeast Asian art. The exhibition showcases Latiff Mohidin’s art during the 1960s, which was a decade that marked such significant shifts both in Southeast Asia and Europe. Latiff Mohidin is not only one of Southeast Asia’s leading artists, it could be said that he is one of the first artists of the region to imagine ‘Southeast Asia’ as a distinct aesthetic realm. Curatorially, the Gallery continues to be driven by its mission in enabling a greater understanding of Southeast Asian art internationally.”
Pago Pago: Latiff Mohidin (1960-1969) is conceived by the curators Catherine David of Centre Pompidou and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa of National Gallery Singapore as a micro-history that situates one of Southeast Asia’s leading modernists in dialogue with his Western peers. Held in a space adjacent to the permanent galleries of the Pompidou, the exhibition is set in the 1960s when Latiff Mohidin embarked upon his formal study of art at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in West Berlin from 1961 to 1964. Ranging from the emotional states of German Expressionism that Latiff Mohidin encountered during his formative years in Berlin to the ancestral imaginary of his rural upbringing in British Malaya, Pago Pago became a way of thinking manifested in a constellation of paintings, sculptures, prints poetry and writings.
In 1964, Latiff Mohidin returned to Southeast Asia from Europe with the hope of reengaging with a region that had been relegated to his subconsciousness. Amidst perceived communist expansionism in Vietnam and insurgencies that raged internally in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, he remained committed towards initiating his own sense of the region. If the Berlin years were about the ability to translate between cultures, the years that followed presented a different proposition: to think of all matter as eternal cycles. The poetry of the ‘Pago Pago’ years is in free verse form, while the paintings compositionally rely on thick outlines, controlled brush strokes, jagged and curvilinear edges. The exhibition will feature over 70 artworks and archival materials drawn from leading public and private collections in Singapore and Malaysia.
Mr Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Senior Curator at National Gallery Singapore and co-curator of the exhibition adds, “This exhibition traces a formative period in the artist’s practice in the 1960s as he journeyed across Europe and Southeast Asia. Latiff Mohidin evokes the consciousness that emerged through these travels with a phrase: ‘Pago Pago’, a manner of thinking and working that complicated Western modernism through the initiation of dialogues with other avant-garde thinkers in Southeast Asia. These included the Indonesian writer Goenawan Mohamad, whom Latiff Mohidin first met in 1967. This exhibition will explore all sorts of interlocking connections in highlighting what constitutes a contribution to 20th century modernism.”
Ms Catherine David, Deputy Director, Musée National d'Art Moderne of Centre Pompidou and co-curator of the exhibition said, “This In-Focus exhibition is designed to unravel the complexities of key works that Latiff Mohidin produced in the 1960s, a decade which could be characterized as a moment when Southeast Asia established itself as a locus within the major redraft of Modernism. The exhibition concludes with the 1969 moment of Neo Pago Pago, a critical year in the artist’s practice as he transitioned from the Pago Pago series (1964-68) into a prolific output of literary prose and poetry, yet another understudied aspect of his practice that this exhibition will seek to tease out.”
Alongside the exhibition, a publication featuring critical writings related to Pago Pago is being edited by the exhibition’s curators. A special public programme that surveys Latiff Mohidin’s literary activities in the 1960s and 1970s featuring the writers Goenawan Mohamad, Idanna Pucci and Terence Ward will be held on 28 February 2018, 7pm-9pm, Basement 1 Forum, Cinéma 2.