Te poho o Hine-Ruhi 2018
oil pastel on paper
photograph by Tim Wagg
Presented with support from CREATIVE NZ.
Raukura Turei’s Te poho o Hine-Ruhi (‘The chest of Hine-Ruhi’) grows out of an extended visit to Toronto, Canada. Living in close quarters with an old friend, the artist became acutely aware of her body, its rhythms, and its demands: ‘the need for privacy, the need to communicate, to rest, to masturbate, to meditate, to fuck, to cry’. At the same time, she found a new daily routine and a sense of security that encouraged her to engage in self-scrutiny. This process gave rise to an ongoing series of drawings, close-ups of the artist’s body made using oil pastel, a medium that is highly responsive to the artist’s touch and that yields images of a sensual, painterly materiality.
The works that make up Te poho o Hine-Ruhi, are not solely intended as reflections on and of the self. Turei also wishes to raise questions of female sexuality and body sovereignty more generally, to engage and empower other women. To this end, she has turned to a powerful entity beyond herself, Hine-Ruhi, a Māori goddess associated with movement, dance, and the dawn. Where earlier works showed the female body near life size, here it swells to a superhuman scale. The range of tones in each work has also increased as Turei has steeped cascades of velvety pointillist strokes in misty passages. These works are resolutely joyous, suggesting the delight not only of a human body moving through dawn air, but also of the world at large dancing into a new day.