The captivating aspect of Yashoda Latkar’s work is her use of colour. Her Neon series, in collaboration with the Chinese designer Maniu, invites us into a world of disco balls and bold neon signs. It’s a world where time doesn’t appear to exist. Maniu’s pieces are otherworldly – beads flow where beads shouldn’t be, almost like a floating abacus, or a game of Tetris in progress. There’s a clash of opposing elements - strings of colourful beads are fighting for dominance over the army of baby blue and puffy pink satin. The white collars hold the designs together and bring a sense of equilibrium to the collection.
Latkar’s skillful use of off-camera flash highlights the immaculate makeup and clever use of white beads, which delicately rest upon smooth skin, almost as if Maniu’s designs are slowly, but surely taking possession over the model’s flesh. Or perhaps this is a metaphor – the clothes are an extension of the woman. She is one with the fabric, so much so that they are indivisible, where does one start and the other end? Who knows, but more importantly, who cares? The woman stares you directly in the eye, with an almost confrontational gaze – she is powerful, this is her territory, and you are merely a visitor, just passing through.
Latkar uses the low light environment to create an enticing ambience - the red, blue and pink glow from the neon lights is almost its own character within the series. After observing the images for a while, a more profound meaning comes to the surface... some might say it’s on the edge of meaning.
Beyond the wild fluorescent colours and delicate garments are hints of a quiet commentary on the state of the global economy and China’s relationship with luxury goods. There has been a recent exponential increase in luxury spend from the post 80’s generation, which may in part be fuelled by the single child policy which was introduced in 1979. Time, attention and disposable income were focused on the only one child parents were allowed to have.
One of the images is striking for its effective use of the on-location set, God’s Own Junkyard in London. In the picture, the woman gracefully touches the hand of a metallic gold Louis Vuitton statue with a Chanel flag effortlessly exuding its elegance in the background. It screams, ‘Fashion is our religion of choice, and this is our altar’.
The post 80’s generation has grown up and for them, luxury is a source of social capital. Due to the digital revolution, this generation feels more in sync with western cultures, and they’re in a phase of wanting to embrace and experience everything their expanded world has to offer.
Latkar’s low angles on the majority of the images in the Neon series ensure there’s no mistaking the power dynamics - the woman is strong, confident and in control. In an environment filled with objects that could easily depict the opposite, this is an achievement. The woman in these images is in full control of her world, and her sexuality - her stern gaze, with legs wide open and a giant red sex neon sign glowing behind her dares you to question her authority, her choices or her freedom to self- expression.