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Richard John Forbes: A.R.C. @ JAG



Richard John Forbes: A.R.C. @ JAG

Series editor: Antoinette Murdoch

Copyright Š 2011 Johannesburg Art Gallery

T: +27 (0) 11 720 3479

Project team: Cameron Bramley, Jacques Lange,

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be


Jeff Malan

reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,

Published by Friends of the Johannesburg Art Gallery PO Box 6514, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa

electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording


Sponsors: ABSA, BASA, Gauteng Department of

Contributing authors: Richard John Forbes,

or any other information storage and retrieval system,

Rhett Martyn, Antoinette Taljaard

without prior permission in writing by the publisher and copyright owners.

Sport, Arts Culture and Recreation Proofreaders: Tracy Murinik, Stacey Rowan

ISBN 978-0-620-50378-5 Photography: Richard John Forbes Printed in the Republic of South Africa by Creda Design: Bluprint Design

Production management: Value Capture Media & Marketing (Pty) Ltd


Aviatron 4. First A.R.C., 2009. Bamboo and print from The Quiet Revolution series


Communications (Pty) Ltd

CONTENTS 05 Foreword

Antoinette Murdoch

07 Absa supports Richard John Forbes'

mid-career retrospective

09 Olfactory Alchemist

Antoinette Taljaard


Richard John Forbes' A.R.C.

Rhett Martyn

21 Works 47


48 Sponsors



FOREW ORD Antoinette Murdoch

I first encountered the work of Richard John Forbes

I would like to thank Richard John Forbes for the physi-

Antoinette Murdoch, previously CEO of the Art

whilst scouting Johannesburg for work to purchase for

cal and financial investment that he made to this exhi-

Bank Joburg, was appointed Chief Curator and

the Art Bank Joburg (ABJ) in 2007. At the time I was the

bition; and to Cameron Bramley and Jeff Malan for their

Head of the Johannesburg Art Gallery on 1 April

CEO of the ABJ and I was tasked to buy artworks for

ongoing search for funders. To the sponsors, ABSA,

2009. She has a Masters in Fine Art from the Uni-

corporate offices. I was sufficiently impressed with his

BASA and Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts Culture and

versity of the Witwatersrand.

wooden carved sculptures and purchased several pieces

Recreation, thank you for your enduring contribution to

for the ABJ, which has subsequently been exhibited at

Visual Arts in South Africa in general. I would also like to

various institutions throughout the city.

mention the JAG staff who has been intimately involved

in this exhibition – Nonto Ntombela, Seitisho Motsage,

Since then I have had various encounters with Forbes’

Sam Matentji, William Mabidilala, Thulani Skosana and

work and its playful nature is always refreshing. He en-

Chris Kgatla.

courages his audience to take part in his art making process by allowing them to bump and spin objects. Often the history of their presence is captured in large etching plates.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) is pleased to host

ARC @ JAG, a small mid-career retrospective by Richard John Forbes, consisting of large objects.

a world class African city



ABSA SUPPORTS RICHARD JOHN FORBES' MID-CAREER RETROSPECTIVE Absa believes in supporting the arts and continues to

In 2006 the Absa Gallery hosted a solo exhibition of

contribute to the creative and intellectual prosperity of

Richard’s titled The Quiet Revolution. This exhibition was

South Africa as a whole – ultimately benefitting all South

unique as it empowered people to make their own art using

Africans. As one of the biggest corporate patrons of the

Richard’s figurative, sculpted spinning tops as dry point

visual arts in South Africa, Absa is custodian of the largest

etching tools on large copper plates. From this, prints were

South African corporate art collection.

pulled after the show.

One of our primary sponsorships in the visual arts is the

During the same year Richard was invited to design and

Absa L’Atelier competition. It is recognised as South Africa’s

create the winning trophies for the 21st Absa L’Atelier

most prestigious art competition, offering young emerging

competition. These were unveiled to the media and public

artists between the age of 21 and 35 an opportunity to

in a uniquely Richard style at his studio. Here, the guests

receive recognition for their work, whilst developing their

were invited to not only view but interact with the art.

talents abroad. Held annually, it is the longest running national arts competition and has launched the careers of

In 2007 Richard participated in the Absa-sponsored Blue

many South African artists who have now become house-

Gum project in Prince Albert. Through the project five monu-

hold names on a global level. One such artist is Richard

mental trees were covered and four carvers were trained.

John Forbes, who entered the Absa L’Atelier three times

The finished sculpture is called The Burghers of Prince Albert.

and was recognised twice in the top 100. When Absa was approached to support this mid-career Since then Absa has enjoyed a strong relationship with

retrospective of Richard, we naturally agreed. We would


like to wish Richard a roaring success with this unique exhibition – a combination of existing and yet unseen works.




Engaging with Richard John Forbes is like finally meeting

With the A.R.C. there is all of the above, but also more.

Antoinette Taljaard is a transformational perfumer.

somebody who has found the language to express what

It offers a sense of being enclosed at first, an illusion of

She employs plant aromas to invoke emotions and

I have been trying to put into words for years. But he does

safety in our own little universe. When you start to ex-

states that these aromas connect us to our essence

it by engaging my physical space, instead of speaking

plore it, it reveals a connection with another person in

and spinal memories. Her unique creations impact

the words. This is a whole immersive bodily process, which

this space. More than that, we start to experience the

our perceptions of ourselves and our environment.

is far more visceral than any language. He takes con-

presence of the A.R.C. around us that can create a sense

cepts that are microcosms of our engagement and con-

of discomfort – of not being able to control it – because

nections with others and our concept of the Universe,

of its size and the unexpected movements and sounds

and then transforms those concepts into a physical reality.

it makes, and how that challenges my equilibrium, as life does.

I have found that interacting with his works has challenged me in ways that were initially uncomfortable and

What I have also found fascinating is that the vantage

unexpected. For instance, I experience fear because a seem-

point of the viewer is directed towards the point of con-

ingly imbalanced object seems like it is about to fall. A part

nection with another person. And that view becomes so

of me wants to fix, to correct it. Yet just when I become

narrow that only a part of my experience can be chan-

comfortable with the grace and tension inherent in the

nelled through the aperture. This is what brings me to

object, I am challenged again by another aspect of its

my interpretation of the experience, namely that the

structure: its weight. Precarious is the word that comes

A.R.C. is a work that allows us visualise how we relate:

to mind here. Then I start to see the object as a symbol for

a relating to self, to others and the Universe. A represen-

our place in the greater scheme of things: of just how

tation of the microcosm within in the macrocosm.

precarious our position as humans is as we live on this Planet, and also the wonder and the mystery of how we continue to exist in this ‘sweet spot’ of the Universe.


"For every line rendered freely by a human hand there is a branch on a tree silhouetted against the blue sky." - Richard John Forbes, 2011



It’s a balmy Saturday afternoon in Johannesburg. Three

us into the second room which is situated under the

These drypoint etchings have been created with spinning

old friends congregate in the set building studio of the

auditorium of the theatre. In this dank and musty bunker

tops, which Richard fashioned from wood and steel. The

Alexander Theatre in Braamfontein, where Richard John

Richard shows us a series of maquettes, his father’s old

mark making process itself, the ‘top spinning’, happened

Forbes is building his latest sculpture for his May 2011

balsa wood model planes and drawings detailing the

through organised public events where attendees could

show at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The occasion lends

dirigible structure as it is meant to look in its completed

spin tops onto the copper surface of the etching plates.

itself to familiar masculine banter, each friend taking a

state. Explaining how a large membranous cloth will be

jab at the other, in futile attempts to illicit reaction. This

stretched over a sprung framework, Richard points at a

“I’ve come to realise the value that the notion of ‘chance’

kind of bravado is more effective on younger men with

paper and bamboo model that is built in much the same

plays in the process of making art,” Richard says about the

more energy and shorter fuses … we are middle aged.

fashion as an old paper and balsa plane model. It con-

etching. “By allowing others to intervene in my art making

More significantly though, we have all returned to our

sists of two bulbous structures connected in the middle

process, I’m forced to confront issues of control. This is

old haunt, in spitting distance of the National School of

by a narrow tunnel, like two garlic bulbs joined at the stem.

a concept that I’ve been working hard at for years now,

the Arts, where we met almost 25 years ago, and now

The paper walls that make up the membrane of these

and its implications overlap all parts of life. My early work

we meet once again in Braamfontein to look and chat

conjoined dirigibles are covered in inky marks that pepper

was preoccupied with my personal view of the world – it

about Richard’s monumental sculpture.

the surface like a three-dimensional Jackson Pollock paint-

was entirely ego driven. And while my later work is not en-

ing stretched over a balloon. Dale questions the necessity

tirely selfless, there is a constant paradoxical play between

Hanging from the double volume ceiling of this enormous

of these surface markings, and wonders why Richard doesn’t

relinquishment and control.”

room is a structure that resembles the thorax and abdomen

cover his dirigible in plain material.

of a giant insect. Though at this stage Richard has just start-

In building the dirigible, the challenge has been to instigate

ed to put the structure together, the lines sketched out

“I’m interested in the way that light will filter through the

these principles through a public event, but on a much

by its skeletal beginnings suggest a piece of monumental

dirigible. I wanted to translate the mark making process I

larger scale. To do this, Richard intends to create a ‘hap-

proportions, and I sense Richard’s anxiety as he looks up

was working with in printmaking into a three-dimensional

pening’ that will take place the following week. The trick,

at the monster and contemplates the work that lies ahead

state,” Richard explains. “When standing inside the dirigible,

he claims, is to mimic the kind of mark making process

in the weeks to come. “In fact,” Richard explains to Dale,

the viewer will be surrounded by a dome of marks, like an

achieved in The Quiet Revolution series, only this time

“its form is based on a dirigible, but of course it won’t

inverted night sky.”

the drawing he intends to make is about twenty metres long and eight metres wide. The other problem he antici-

fly. I’m actually using it as a huge tympanum that will pick up sound and vibration, and the viewer will be able

We move over to a corner of the studio. Posted on one wall

pates is that a happening involving such large quantities

to experience those sounds by standing in the chamber

is a print from Richard’s The Quiet Revolution series.

of printing ink, and mark making at this scale, has the

formed by the walls of the balloon.” Dale looks slightly

Roughly 80 x 80 cm, the etching consists of hundreds of

potential to get completely out of hand.

confused and contemplative, prompting Richard to guide

spiraling marks randomly dispersed across the surface.


“I’ve bought a very expensive high tensile cloth that Rhett’s

are exchanged repetitively, while they all agree to stick

any way they see fit. A communal sigh of relief comes

students will be ‘drawing’ on, on Wednesday. We will be

together: safety in numbers is their decided strategy.

from the group as they envision their morning of messy fun.

using a variety of balls, disks and sponges that we are

One student admits to me that he thought that they had

going to roll over the surface to create a massive drawing,”

Forty minutes later, after fighting through a frenzy of traffic,

been recruited as labour to execute the task of building

he explains to Dale. “Then I’m going to cut the drawing

we reassemble in the basement of the theatre. Having

the highly complicated dirigible structure (I acknowledge

up into a pattern and sew it back together to form the

taken a bad turn into Empire Road, I’m late, and most of

his imaginative ability, but reassure him by pointing out

skin of the dirigible.”

the students are here already. Richard, who has been on

the legal issues emerging from his hypothesis).

site since sunrise, has already set the recruits to work. It’s two hours since we arrived and our conversation has

At least fifteen students are covering themselves head

We move back into the main studio, where a camera

become quite philosophical (this has become typical of

to toe in plastic bags, duct taping the bags around their

perched on the staircase has been rolling continually. A

an older Richard; in earlier days our attention would have

feet. A couture of plastic garments is being assembled

small audience comprising Richard’s assistant, Manifesto

turned to the bar by now). Without being pretentious (our

for this auspicious occasion. Deliciously new rolls of fabric

(whose name, it would seem, was serendipitously given

lives are too complicated for that at forty), we speak

are being carefully bowled out along the length of the

to him directly by the Art Gods), Kate Ballenden and Toni-

around the issues raised this afternoon. The notion of

studio, and fifteen-metre lengths of brown paper lie

Ann Ballenden, waits eagerly. A ruffle of plastic ripples

control seems poignant to us all. We talk sincerely about

alongside the fabric, ostensibly to protect the floor from

through the room, as students assume their positions.

our respective struggles with this concept in our daily lives;

ink spill. In amongst this hive of activity, Richard is belting

Richard works himself into a frenzy, sweating as he mixes

we engage in a half hour of group therapy before realising

out instructions, gesturing like a conductor amidst a frenetic

the ink into large buckets, using turpentine thinner to

how this tone compromises our studied masculine swagger.

orchestra. It is very exciting.

dissolve the syrupy substance. Some of the students hawk

Another half hour of sarcasm and wit remedies the awk-

over him, eager to pick up tips from the seasoned prac-

ward silences brought on by our revelations. Richard

After the canvas is prepared and students are suited up,

titioner. Others can’t help themselves with the variety of

and I make arrangements for my students to meet in the

the whole group is assembled into the adjacent room for

ball types on offer, and they start to kick, bounce and

studio on Wednesday before we say goodbye, trying to

a briefing. Richard and I conduct the meeting in front of a

throw them up against any surface they can find. Once

be minimal and cool in the wake of our sober afternoon.

to-scale drawing of the dirigible. The mammoth artwork

again the room is alive with a disparate energy that feels

spans ceiling to floor and the full length of the room. Situated

like practice time at Boswell Wilkie circus. Richard, who

behind the students are the maquettes, diminutive in

has always had a flair for the dramatic, signifies the begin-

relation to the drawing. The students are utterly silenced

ning of the game, by dipping a ball into the mixture, and

by the scale of this undertaking; they seem intimidated.

throwing it theatrically onto the canvas. “Let the games

It’s seven o’clock on Wednesday morning and I’m a greeted

Richard and I explain that they will be engaged in a game,

begin!” he announces.

by a group of bushy tailed Design Foundation students at

which involves dipping a variety of sponge balls, plates and

the college. They are about to engage in the largest drawing

disks into buckets of ink. Once laden with the oily blue liquid,

Excitedly the student’s splash tennis balls, frisbees, foot-

they have ever been involved in, and possibly ever will be.

Richard asks that they stand opposite each other on the

balls and beach balls into the buckets of blue ink that are

The other point of contention generating the tangible edgi-

massive canvas laid out on the floor. Using the balls as

placed at intervals along the periphery of the canvas. They

ness, is that they are all going to Braamfontein – further

gigantic pens, the students are encouraged to roll, kick

inaugurate the canvas by hurling ink-laden balls across

south and deeper into the malevolent city their parents

and throw the balls to each other across the surface. The

the room, each student exhibiting a definitive style of their

have spent years warning them about. We make arrange-

artist suggests that they approach the endeavor creatively,

own. If viewed only through the lens, and if the canvas

ments to meet up at the Alexander Theatre. GPS coordinates

encouraging them to spin, bounce and skim the ball in

were cropped so as not to show the activity of these



young artists hurling soaked objects into the centre of

point, standing well out of the way of the performance.

is hardly the time to make arrangements for afternoon

the room, this performance would appear quite super-

We finally decide that what we are looking at is definitely

classes. I give up and bid them all farewell, defeated by

natural. There are no brushes attached to the end of these

night sky or a universe in motion, and after a while we start

their excitement.

draughtsmen; lines seem to dart, curve and spiral across

to refer to marks as comets, shooting stars and galaxies.

the surface as if drawn magically on their own. We are


looking at cursors drawing lines on a computer screen;

Toni-Ann, Richard and I start to discuss when the appro-

except with the organic flow and unpredictability that

priate time would be to arrest the process. As if by divine

only real time can deliver. This ballet of dancing lines has

intervention, the ink runs out and the students are forced

something animate about it, something that shouldn’t

to stop. There is hardly a drop left at the exact point when

In the last ten years Richard Forbes has become passion-

be real – like a animation – only it is very real and happen-

the work is in danger of teetering over the edge. The beau-

ate about the notion of how the self interfaces into so-

ing right before my eyes.

tiful marks rendered onto the surface are memorialised.

cially constructed environments. This has been his quiet

The moment of completion could not be more perfect. One

revolution, his personal project involving the continual

more intervention remains.

evolution from the confines of subjectivity, into the ever-

Richard has completely disappeared into the mayhem,

expanding universe of collectivity. To understand this

the authoritative position he once held at the beginning of this endeavor has been subsumed by the amassing of

Hanging off bungee cords above the canvas are two large

obsession we need to look at where Richard and his work

activity and flurry; his objective of complete emersion

sponge cylinders. Richard is determined to use these to

have come from, and why it continues to evolve in the

has been achieved. There isn’t the slightest hint of indi-

dab enormous pools of ink over areas of the composition,

way that it does.

vidualism in this performance. The atmosphere becomes

ostensibly to create focal points. I recall the Gestalt princi-

jovial as more students join in. Of course there are also the

ple of anomalies: in this case the notion of ‘difference’

In 1985, when I first met Richard, the art world was

ubiquitous pranksters who become more interested in

will create a focal attraction. The sponge pieces have been

captivated by a romantic dynamism, and gestural expres-

painting each other than painting the canvas. I see one

soaked with the remaining ink. Richard asks Shaun, who

sion became the darling of that era. This was the era of

student pick up a tin plate and spin it on its side. As the

has been begging to make the ‘grand gesture’ ever since

Julian Schnabel and Anselm Kiefer. Art works were big;

spinning slows down, and the plate begins to fall, a spiral

Richard announced his intentions at the beginning of the

personalities where even bigger. As a student at the

of thin blue ink is deposited on the surface of the canvas.

session. Delighted, Shaun leaps into action, throwing the

National School of the Arts, Richard became interested

It looks remarkably similar to the marks created by the

laden sponge onto the vast canvas ahead. The loaded

in two principle ideas that still influence his work today.

spinning tops in The Quiet Revolution series, only these

body of ink and sponge lands with a splat on the image.

The first was the notion of mark making, and the idea

marks are in proportion to the giant canvas it’s being paint-

A swell of oily blue liquid antagonises the delicately con-

that mood can be transferred onto paper through the

ed on. This little event attracts a lot of attention. Students

structed composition around it: something catastrophic

notion of gesture. He found great value in this idea as

gather around the spinning plate eager to learn this tech-

has exploded into this carefully organised universe. The

an artist, and looked to the drawings of Da Vinci, Daumier

nique to create spiraling marks. The onlookers follow suit

cosmic metaphors endure. Shaun’s gargantuan gesture sig-

and Van Gogh as high priests in the art thereof. Secondly

in minutes, and the metallic shrills ricochet around the

nifies the end of the performance. Besides, fumes have en-

he fell in love with traditional sculpture – Michelangelo

studio erupting into an eardrum-bursting, tinny cacophony.

gulfed the room. An intolerable fog of turpentine vapour

and Rodin – obsessing about technical virtuoso, and

We have hit the crescendo of our morning.

hangs menacingly in the air. Richard takes care of a few

admiring the monumentalism of their sculptures.

technical issues, while I start to debrief the students. It takes Throughout the fiasco, Toni-Ann Ballenden and I have kept

a while to get through the adrenaline barrier. These stu-

Mark making and monumentalism are two of the pre-

a running commentary going on the work from our vantage

dents are hyped up, loud and covered in blue paint. This

vailing concerns that we still find in Richard’s work 25


years later, but it’s a third component in his work that has

process, Richard had to step aside and allow the public

(Enrica Colabella 2008). At face value, the description

revolutionised his art making process over the last ten

(makers) to do what they wanted. The consequences of

of generative art is often limited by two reference points.

years. Governing his drive to evolve the work is a yearn-

this meant that he would have to accept the aesthetic

One is that it is a software art practice, which focuses on

ing for inclusivity, and the transcendence of static objects

output unconditionally (this was a big step coming from

the processing relations of coding and aesthetic output

into the realm of the interactive. Richard’s initial inter-

someone who had fixated on the technical virtuoso of

(Whitelaw 2005). The other is that it is characterised by

vention into interactivity was marked by his exhibition,

Da Vinci and Rodin). Ironically, through this subtle

abstraction, likened to the visual arts of the first half of

Tac Toc (2004). The show, which resembled a somewhat

abandonment of control, and the process of investing

the twentieth century. However, truthfully generative art

mad rendition of a theme park, consisted of an assem-

trust in the system around him, it has led to Richard’s

is Art, in that it is a systems-oriented art practice through

blage of wooden sculptures that could literally be ‘ridden’

most successful work to date.

which an instructive procedure is activated in order to

by the viewer. Rocking on enormous concrete disks, these

perform generative results. Such procedures can become

sculptures enticed children and adults alike into hours of

A.R.C., to some degree, is a continuation of this theme.

completely automated and hence exist autonomously

wobbling and swaying furiously through spaces guarded

However, it is fundamentally ‘retrospective’ in that it com-

after the artist has initiated the instructive sequence

by concerned gallery managers. If this exhibition did not

bines so many of Richard’s talents developed over many

(Galanter 2002).

evoke the quintessential associations we have of Richard’s

years. This work is really the result of years of struggle,

work, then it certainly marked one of the most important

shifts, change and challenge. It is difficult to sum up the

turning points in the development thereof, for the notion

complexity of the layers that go into a work like this.

of play and interactivity led to some of the most informa-

Fortunately the phrase, “the whole is greater than the

tive moments in his work to date. Enamoured of the

sum of its parts”, relinquishes me from having to take

Galanter, P. 2002. ‘What is generative art? Complexity

process of communication, collaboration and play, Richard

on the mammoth task of trying to deconstruct such a

theory as a context for art theory.’ GA2003 – 6th

sought to further these agendas in other disciplines. Having

complex layering of history and ideology. The real power

worked as an assistant to Kentridge, Richard re-invoked

of the work is in the moment when all of those layers,

Colabella, E. ‘Generative Art.’ GA2008 – 11th Generative

his passion for printmaking, and looked to this process

contingencies and ideas merge into a single defining

for his next way forward in the interactive process.


Stiny, G. and Gips, J. ‘Shape Grammars and the Generative


Generative Art Conference. Art Conference.

Specification of Painting and Sculpture’ in Freiman, C.V.

The Quiet Revolution (2005) is really a generative artwork. It was generated by the public who participated


(ed). Information Processing 71. Amsterdam: NorthHolland. 1972: 1460-65. Republished in Petrocelli, O.R. (ed). The Best Computer Papers of 1971. Auerbach:

in its making. Large etching plates were assembled on tables in public spaces. A variety of handmade spinning

“Generative art refers to any art practice where the art-

tops (crafted by the artist) were scattered about, free to

ist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules,

be used by those attending the show. Viewers were invited

a computer program, a machine, or other procedural in-

to spin these tops over the copper etching plates, engraving

vention, which is set into motion with some degree of

Rhett Martyn lives and works in Johannesburg.

a net of spiraled marks into the surface. The plates were

autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed

Whilst head of the Communication Design at In-

printed and sold in editions of 15. The Quiet Revolution

work of art.” (Philip Galanter 2002)

scape Design College, Rhett is currently finishing

Philadelphia. 1972: 125-35.

a Masters Degree at Wits University. He also works

consolidated complete emersion; the abandonment of control, and the onset of an autonomous process that

To really simplify this definition, one could say that gen-

as an artist utilising both traditional and digital

governed the making of his artworks. Through this

erative art is the art of process rather than the art of results




Construction and dispersal mark making event for the skin of A.R.C., Alexander Theatre basement, Johannesburg, February-March 2011


A.R.C. installation at Johannesburg Art Gallery, May 2011



A.R.C. installation and detail views at Johannesburg Art Gallery, May 2011




The Quiet Revolution top spinning events TOP: Making of the Absa press day plate Forbes studio, Johannesburg, 2006 BOTTOM: Making of the St Stithians plate, St Stithians School, 2006



Digital print and etchings from The Quiet Revolution series, 2006



Selection of The Quiet Revolution spinning tops, 2006 FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 360 degree portrait #1. Bronze and wood Cat and man. Wood 360 degree portrait #2. Wood 360 degree portrait #3. Bronze and wood Universal top #1. Wood Around the universe. Bronze and wood


The Quiet Revolution plates, 2007. Acid spinning top marks


Spinning Top Conceptuals, 2007. Premises Gallery and Marvelous World Exhibitions TOP LEFT: Conceptual top 1, 2007. Mixed wood TOP RIGHT: Conceptual top 2, 2007. Brass and wood LEFT: The hand of god, 2007. Black wood



LEFT: Aviatron 1, 2009. Bronze RIGHT:

, 2008. Wood fame and print on rice paper


Maquette for Elevator, 2009. Bronze and chrome. Elevator is a monument standing on Joe Slovoe Drive, Berea, Johannesburg


Aviatron to A.R.C. thinking, 2009 Forbes studio, Greenside, Johannesburg



Aviatron 4. First A.R.C., 2009 Bamboo and Quiet revolution print



LEFT: Aviatron to A.R.C. thinking, 2009. Forbes studio, Greenside, Johannesburg RIGHT: Aviatron 2, 2009 Chinese umbrella/top and The Quiet print on rice paper



LEFT: Aviatron to A.R.C. thinking, 2009 Forbes studio, Greenside, Johannesburg RIGHT: Dirigible A.R.C and Beethoven, 2009


TOP ROW: Marble A.R.C., 2010. Marvelouse World, Fried Contemporary, Pretoria BOTTOM & RIGHT: A.R.C., 2010. Bronze. Fried Contemporary, Pretoria



LEFT: Blueprint drawings for A.R.C., 2010 RIGHT: A.R.C., 2010. Blueprint for skin




LEFT: A.R.C., 2010. Blueprint for skin RIGHT: Screen grabs from a video of A.R.C. thinking, 2009



A.R.C. installation at Johannesburg Art Gallery, May 2011



RICHARD JOHN FORBES: CHRONOLOGY For the greater part of the nineties, whilst living in Portugal

At this juncture, I was commissioned by William Kentridge

were willing participants and sponsors of The Burghers of

and the United Kingdom, I attempted to pursue my artistic

to assist him on four large bronze sculptures for the West-

Prince Albert which stands massive and proud on Church

career and simultaneously earn a living in a field I believed

ern Australian Museum of Art, and this led to a continued

Street (main street) of Prince Albert in the Klein Karoo. This

to be parallel i.e. structural heritage restoration. I did achieve

professional relationship and friendship over the next four

project, although not entirely achieved country wide, as

my goal to be a highly specialised, well paid and sought after

years. Some of the works included travelling models for

was my objective, put me in good stead for any future large

artisan, although my artistic career received less attention.

The Magic Flute opera and a series of small bronze and

scale endeavours.

wooden horses for The Nose opera. From the middle of 2008 into 2009, with the assistance of

On returning to South Africa in the early part of 2000 I made a conscious decision to forego the easier options of

In the middle of 2005 I had already begun to conceive the

the Trinity Sessions as my agents, I embarked on a sequence

employment, and after careful analysis of the skills I had

new form of my work. I was invited to exhibit at the ABSA

of public works. These include Agua and H2O, two large

gained as well as the knowledge and international ex-

Gallery. This gave me the opportunity to generate a new

scale, 3m high wooden sculptures housed at Johannes-

perience I had received, I knew I was in the right creative

body of work which brought me closer to the nucleus of

burg Water and a series of smaller works owned by Johan-

emotional and intellectual space to commit entirely to

my thinking, that being “make the work precious through

nesburg Art Bank; and two public monuments commis-

my artistic career.

interaction with the audience”. The show called Ripple,

sioned by the Johannesburg Development Agency, namely

launched the series of works that came to be known as

Elevator, a stainless steel symbol of aspiration standing

By the end of 2003 I had already participated in several

The Quiet Revolution. In this process, I challenged people

6m high above Joe Slovo Drive in Berea and Courage,

group shows and successfully began to sell my work and

to spin tops sculpted by me on copper plates, thereby break-

another stainless steel, fearless young girl 6m high, walk-

earn a living. This included my first solo show which began

ing down barriers between the art and the viewer. The cop-

ing on stilts into the city from Alec Gorcel Park in Berea.

a body of work called Attitudes. By this time, I had become

per plates were then used to print valuable time diagrams

fascinated by interactive artwork that would bring people

of the moments they had spent playing with those tops.

The year 2009 also brought me closer to my overall vision

into a physically engaging situation with the art work.

To date, there have been nine such events and the value

of how my work must proceed and how I would engage

The Attitudes are wooden sculptures fixed into a round

of these large prints plus the sculptured tops has increased

my audience at an even deeper level. The observation of

bottomed base. They are brought to movement by the

exponentially since first showing. Some of the owners

space and time and quantum principles found in The Quiet

viewer pushing them. The physical kinetics of these sculp-

of these works are ABSA Bank, Mastro Antonio Restaurants

Revolution and in the oscillation of the spinning tops

tures challenged people’s sense of space and safety, and

and Nirox, to name but a few.

and The Attitudes gave birth, or should I say flight, to My

Private Universe which I have now come to call A.R.C.

generally caused people to feel child-like and surrounded with the elements of fun. I exhibited evolutions of this

In 2007 I conceived of an idea to turn dead standing mam-

Gratefully and graciously, I was invited to exhibit at Johan-

work over a two-year period, amassing a body of 45 plus

moth trees into public works. This was my first undertaking

nesburg Art Gallery starting on the 15 May 2011 and I

works of which I now only own two.

to raise funds from the private sector to pay for public works

am presently working vigorously toward this goal.

and to initiate an apprentice based project. ABSA Bank





Richard John Forbes: A.R.C. @ JAG