Tabatha Forbes


Dr. Tabatha Forbes MFA (Hons) DocFA, is a New Zealand visual artist, born in 1972.

Tabatha graduated with a Doctorate in Fine Arts in 2016 from the Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University. Tabatha is now based in Taranaki, New Zealand after living in Rarotonga, Cook Islands between 2011-17. Previous to this, she lived on an orchard west of Auckland, New Zealand where she painted, taught botanical art and began her postgraduate study.

Her interdisciplinary practice includes painting, photography, video, writing, performance and audio visual installations. Tabatha has held three major exhibitions in Rarotonga (2011-2017). Working with South Pacific flora, fauna and natural history each of her projects has included collaborating with Cook Island craftsman and women.

“For nearly two decades my work has been increasingly concerned with the link of early 18th Century Botanical Art, and how this influenced European perceptions of the South Pacific through collection and documentation and present day manifestations of those aesthetics and agendas. For example, how we value nature (flora & fauna) and how that evolves and recedes through the current influence of economy, beauty, politics and ecology. The story of how nature is initially seen (both in indigenous and European histories) and how it is developed as a ‘productive’ resource, is always a curious story to tell. I have based several previous projects looking at botanical art techniques and translating that through water based paint and print”.

Tabatha’s work attempts to present the audience with the suggestion that how we see nature and culture, has been shaped by these histories – through aesthetics, science, documentation and classification, without consideration of any existing indigenous understanding. “Being a New Zealand pakeha comes with an awareness of being ‘other’; being connected to a culture on the other side of the globe, yet feeling part of another culture and environment altogether. Spending time in the Cook Islands has presented me with a greater understanding of what it means to be a part of the South Pacific, making the pre-colonial nature and culture of this side of the world valued and appreciated more than I ever could from New Zealand. Pakeha or not, I’m still geographically at the very least, a Pacific Islander.

Tabatha has been featured in group and solo exhibitions in Rarotonga and New Zealand.

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