Predominantly working with wood and stone, there is little extraneous decoration in Anton Forde’s (Ngāti Ruanui) artworks; his pared-back creations leave room for personal interpretation. The deceptive simplicity of Forde’s human figures are suggestive rather than proscriptive: their final form aligns with the cultural framework of each viewer, and is different for everyone. This is indicative of the artist’s interest in the way indigenous creative and cultural traditions use sign and symbol to illustrate universal themes. (1)
Regardless of their scale, Forde’s sculptures possess a sense of the monumental, due in no small part to his respectful treatment of the materials he employs. His finely grained and richly coloured pounamu forms balance perfectly upon their bases of basalt, whose dense crystalline mass betrays their volcanic origins; the mauri of the stones resonates through the sculptures.
This is especially evident in Ngā Roimata ō Ranginui, a recent work for the University of Auckland that Forde completed with fellow Taranaki artist Ngahina Hohaia. Unveiled to blessings from mana whenua, and local Muslim and Christian leaders, the stone sculpture is an acknowledgement of the pain and grief felt by all in the wake of the Christchurch shooting and a call for tolerance and unity. Inscribed with raukura, it speaks to the hope and peaceful vision of the prophets of Parihaka. (2)
Anton Forde began carving when he was 18 and has been exhibiting regularly since 2012. In 2019, he completed his Master of Maori Visual Arts under the supervision of Professor Robert Jahnke. His public works can be found in numerous sites throughout the Auckland region and he lives on nearby Waiheke Island with his family.