Latif's previous work bears the imprimatur of a contemporary realist well-versed with his craft. The flowers look so real you want to reach out and touch them; the fruits are good enough to eat. Latif is truly a master of the water droplet. Whether hanging from a hibiscus leaf or clinging to an orange, the water droplet lends a certain immediacy to the picture and was , for a time, the artists's signature.
Latif then found that he could transfer this technique to painting glass and plastic bottles - water jugs, Bottles, cooking oil containers. No matter if the plastic bottle stood out like a sore thumb amidst the fruits and flowing batiks. Latif was more interested in detailing everyday objects that were lying around the kitchen.
Consequently, in his first solo exhibition, we see the artist venturing forth into the real world, beyond the seeming calm of everyday life , there is a parallel universe...dark, sinister and defiant.
The realism of the paintings goes beyond social issues to the actual setting of the scenes. Latif arms himself with a camera wherever he goes. His photographs, snapped at random, furnish his paintings with backgrounds that give the local viewer a strong sense of the familiar.
He explains that though the main backdrop is taken directly from photographs, he adds or takes out things, or discolours certain aspects. The end product is a clever combination of the real and the imagined that, at first glance, presents a straightforward, explicit message, but which contains a deeper commentary. “Lots of artists comment on social issues using abstract styles. I wanted to make my paintings very direct,” he says.
Although his images are bold and direct, they require some thinking to discern what’s going on. Figures, or the lack thereof, represent certain issues – homelessness, corruption, abuse, rape. But you wouldn’t know that unless you thought about them and used your own imagination. Latif’s particular use of vibrant colours is a comment on the cheeriness of surface appearances that masks a bleaker, unpleasant reality.
His works are reminiscent of the realism prominent in works by French writers Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola, whereby the force of a seedy, hidden sub-culture – a parallel universe – takes centre stage and blinds us with an alternate reality – one we hardly see but which is probably more truthful than we’d like to acknowledge.