Forged by Forbes and friendship

Published: 19 Feb 2019

They are known as the Forbes Group – 11 local female artists linked through a friendship forged in the drawing classes of Clem Forbes.

Their works, which currently adorn the walls of the Artspace Foyer and Gallery Three, vary greatly, much like the individual personalities and experiences of the artists.

They are, however, linked by strong foundations in gestural drawing techniques – foundations instilled by the late Clem Forbes.

Clem was a Mackay artist, gallerist and art educator who, by the early 1980s, was considered by many to be the main driving force behind visual arts in our community.

Cr Fran Mann said the exhibition, which officially opens on Friday, February 22, at 6pm, featured many well-known local art personalities that were linked by Clem’s teachings.

“Foundations in Drawing celebrates the art of Kay Bampton, Mary Brown, Margaret Burgess, Irene Coburn, Alison Fenech, Lesley Kane, Lyn Laver Ahmat, Maria Lenz, Sybil Rodger, Raye Williams and Leonie Wood,” Cr Mann said.

“This exhibition has been curated by our very own Exhibitions team,” she said.

“They spent time visiting each of the artists, often in their artists’ studios, to learn more about the women’s art practices and to select works for the exhibition.

“The collection of drawings featured spans a twenty-five-year period, from those created in Forbes’ classes to recent work.”

Also opening on February 22 is “Obsessed: Compelled to make”, an Australian Design Centre Touring Exhibition.

Cr Mann said this exhibition in the FIELD Engineers Gallery explored the minds, challenges, concept developments and motivations of creative people.

“It tells the stories of 14 well-known Australian artists,” she said.

“These are stories that contain the frustrations and highpoints of a life of creative work that

professional artists, designers or hobbyists can all relate to.

“There are fascinating stories that uncover the artists’ inspirations, their day-to-day

studio experiences, hours of expertise, and the joys and frustrations of obsession.”

These makers have been chosen from a range of fields including textiles, ceramics, furniture, metalwork, jewellery, conceptual art, glass blowing and sculptural weaving.

A series of films and a full-length catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Residents are invited to register their attendance for the opening of these two exciting exhibitions by calling Artspace Mackay on 4961 9722 or emailing

You can also join gallery director Tracey Heathwood for a free exhibition floor talk prior to the opening at 5.30pm.

Background: Clem Forbes

Clem Forbes established an art gallery in the Mackay City Centre in 1972 (the Bakehouse Gallery in Victoria Street, followed by the Forbes Studio Gallery, George Street, in 1978) at a time when dedicated exhibition and studio space for artists were a rarity in the region. The gallery was active until the mid-nineties. During this time Forbes not only pursued his own art practice and provided a space where local and renowned artists from across Australia could exhibit, but also came to be a passionate teacher instilling in many the foundation for their lasting passion for the arts. His classes provided a space for creative outlet and, thirty years on, he is held in the highest esteem by those who encountered him in this context.