Sylvester Sessions #94

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers.

Raukura Turei 

Artist & Actress  
New Zealand    
Raukura wears Stripey Tee & Chevron Bathers

Your piece at Adam Art gallery is the largest you've ever made, tell us about the work and scale of the piece.

The scale is fantastically huge, 10m x 4m commissioned for the entry wall of the Adam originally designed for a Colin McCahon of the same scale.

While this is a massive upscaling of my visual work, it's a size I'm quite comfortable working with from my architectural and installation background. At this scale I can really play with the spatial implications of the work and the depth of form and movement in the surface. The enlarged work also better celebrates the Maori goddess Hine-Ruhi and the shimmering light of dawn her dancing emulates.

Te poho o Hine-Ruhi appears to have a more textured, even fleshy quality to the paint strokes. Tell us about the materials and your movement to clay.

 The use of clay, water and pigment came out of a process of complete experimentation driven by a conscious decision to use a natural material. The shift from oil stick to clay was both a practical response to upscaling the works and wanting to continually use my hands in the making process. Mixed to a mousse like consistency the application of the clay was indeed very flesh like which speaks to the body and temporal nature of the work. 

Your work focuses on segments of the female body, how did this come about, and what does it represent for you?

The use of abstracted crops of my own body has been a focus of mine since living in Toronto in 2017 with a best friend as her self-proclaimed housewife. The body has since been a framework to explore the subjects of female vulnerability, self-expression and body sovereignty. In sharing these works they are becoming a very empowering way to connect with other women's stories.

You also design spaces, do you find links between the design of a physical space, and the space on canvas?

The two completely overlap for me and I'm slowly seeing more of how these different extensions of my work feed into each other.

My architectural practice provides the tools to physically (and theoretically) interrogate how to construct spaces and the implications space has on the human experience. This is a very fulfilling yet often very drawn out process. With my visual and installation work I can test and experiment ideas very quickly, and is a far more personal process where the body is experienced on a more expressive and intimate level. The freedom I get working directly with a surface is very meditative.

What's important to you when designing space and thinking about the human and environment experience of the structure?

I'm very interested in how a space directly interacts with the body and the human experience. Growing up surrounded by the ongoing construction of a very experimental, hand crafted house in Grey Lynn built by my father and adorned by my mother with the treasures of the pacific I'm a product of my environment. As such I've fostered an intuitive design approach that is drawn to natural materials, surface textures and singular bold gestures.  

Who are your heroes in terms of architecture?

The Italian born modernist Lina Bo Bardi, whose public works in Brazil test and push the urban experience, such as her guerilla theatre Teatro Oficina.

I constantly refer to architects' who rigorously interrogate a singular material such as Peter Zumthor or Kengo Kuma.

What books do you return to or prescribe to others?

I love pouring over my big books such as James Turrell's retrospective or Rothko's Colour Field Paintings. I love art books especially ones I find in second hand bookstores such as my Georgia O'Keefe Art and Letters collection. All budding architects should read Peter Zumthor's small books 'Atmospheres' and 'Thinking Architecture' as well as Deidre Brown's 'Maori Architecture'

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Having a break from my computer and getting back into the ocean. This year is turning into a very busy one as my visual work has taken some fantastic turns. I look forward to spending time along the coast of my ancestral lands near Kawakawa Bay and especially the secluded beach Tawhitokino.  


Interview & photography by Greta van der Star.       
Check out Raukura here.