Artist Raukura Turei’s work is bound to a sense of purpose and place. After showing abroad, her new exhibition Te Poho o Hine Ruhi – Aumoana Series in Tauranga will be a heartfelt homecoming. Here she shares the story of her style, her art and her Aotearoa.
“Recently, a girlfriend psychoanalysed my wardrobe and came up with ‘earthy and comfortable’, which made me laugh as it was both very accurate and the last thing I’d want to describe my personal style.
I’m drawn to natural fabrics and support makers I know where I can. I love a good boxy jacket, such as those made by Klay, or a vintage Comme [des Garçons] find. When I want to feel sexy or empowered, I turn to my Miss Crabb pieces from wonderfully creative collaborations with Kristine Crabb.
My wardrobe is a live archive of pieces collected from the places I’ve travelled, but I often wear the same three outfits on repeat during the week. The basic criteria: ‘Can I ride my bike to work in this?’
What’s important to me is how my wardrobe makes me feel and what it shares with the world. I wear pieces that are close to my heart: a black pearl on a chain from my mother, a rough-cut emerald ring from my ‘sister women’ for my 30th, and more recently a pounamu kuru on a handmade gold sleeper, from my lover.
My art is very self-reflective and in retrospect quite self-involved – it grew out of a time of healing and self-discovery. A recurrent theme is reframing the female form outside of a patriarchal gaze – celebrating female sexuality, fragility and body sovereignty.
Living in Toronto and hearing about the atrocities still happening to indigenous women throughout North America and the lack of visibility these women have, I began painting isolated moments of my own body as a silent call to these women that they were being heard. Now I’m back in Aotearoa, that same thread runs through my work.
My latest series calls upon the deity Hine-Ruhi, a goddess whose movement evokes the flickering light of dawn. For a diptych as part of the series ‘Te poho o Hine-Ruhi’, which I showed at the Tokyo Art Fair in March, I experimented with using a blue clay collected from the river banks near Auckland’s Orere Point, not far from my great grandfather’s ancestral papa kainga of Kawakawa Bay. Place is very important to me, so working with the earth connected to my tipuna is very special.
Drawing and making – along with dressing up – were my favourite things as a child, so after many years studying and registering as an architect it has been a revelation for me to reconnect with mark-making. I’ve been focusing on painting for the past three years alongside my architectural practice, with the goal that the two mediums ultimately feed into each other. Art is a mindset I look to apply to everything I do.
Colour palettes I’m drawn to in my painting definitely find their way into what I wear. It’s often less about the colour and more about the cut and fabric. For brown, I lean towards ochre, raw sienna and burnt shades. My colouring suits these tones, so they’re something I feel very comfortable in – back to the ‘earthy and comfortable’!”
‘Te Poho o Hine-Ruhi’ is showing at the Sumer contemporary art gallery in Tauranga from October 19 to November 9.
Opening Saturday, October 19 from 4-6pm.
This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 1 2019.