Ronald Forbes


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Venus and Adonis acrylic/canvas 100x100cm 1998

Diana and Actaeon (with colour guide) acrylic/canvas 150x125cm 1998

Riddle, Number One, 2001 Acrylic on canvas,137.5x114 cm

Strange Encounter, 2001 Acrylic on canvas,152.5x127 cm

Dialogue (with Dennis) 2001 Acrylic on canvas 152.5x152.5 cm


I am primarily a figurative painter, but the term “imagist” may be more appropriate since the human figure in my work is usually de-constructed and re-assembled, synthesised from a range of fragments of images which carry traces of recognition from their source but which have gained a new identity in their new juxtaposition. These fragments are painted illusionistically as if they are collaged, even including the effect of the torn edge of the paper.

Typically the figures are depicted in an environment that also is a synthesis of pictorial elements, which includes the natural and the man-made. The work has an affinity with theatre, with these figure substitutes acting as characters on a stage surrounded by the props necessary to relate some unwritten narrative.

The paintings are intended to engage the viewer in a process of imagination, enquiry and mental game playing. They are complex and multi-layered and involve allusion as much as illusion, since the subject matter often includes reference to the art and mythology of a shared cultural past. Layering, illusion, allusion, ambiguity and visual puzzles relate to a fascination with visual language and the WAY we see. This is demonstrated in the range of painterly devices such as the use of the photographic qualities of focus and blurring, or the construction of images from dots or cross-hatching, with reference to mass-printed images or computer pixels.

The subject matter is often structured as if within the traditional genres of figure, still life and landscape painting, but is more about these than of these. A range of subjects has been constant for a number of years. Gardens in general have been used as a metaphor for nature or landscape, and the Garden of Eden in particular has been central as a reference to our relationship with Nature, and about ideas of knowledge, good and evil and the fall from grace. Figures entangled with keep-fit machinery, often accompanied by after-the-hunt type still lifes or set in luxuriant landscapes, have featured prominently. Images of food, usually as celebrated in advertising, are a constant element. Taxidermy, fakes, museums; and the dream-like disassociation caused by long-distance travel have all been explored. Often, use would be made of the structure of great works by artists from the past as the basis for paintings using easily recognised current day images and objects.

The unexpected combination of the archaic and the contemporary reflect the roots of my way of thinking in Surrealism, nurtured through Pop, leading to personal work, which uses contemporary detail to explore universal and perhaps timeless issues.