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Always a bit of panic

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Turumeke Harrington is an artist and Master of Fine Arts student from Wellington. She's the first recipient of the Collin Post Scholarship in Sculpture, a new award created in memory of arts supporter Collin Post to support promising students from Massey University’s Whiti o Rehua School of Art.

Here, she talks to us about critiques from her daughter, time management, and why she'll never be an astrophysicist.

Turumeke Harrington, "Longer than I can remember", 2020 Nylon, steel, aluminium (detail)

Describe your aesthetic in five words.

Bright. Playful. Serious. Irritating. Responsive.

What course are you doing?

I am currently halfway through a Master of Fine Arts at Massey University, Wellington. I needed a little more… oomph in my practice and space to think through ideas and get feedback without presenting exhibitions publicly. It didn’t quite go as planned this year, with an intense (and awesome) exhibition schedule of six exhibitions in six months across Aotearoa, but I’m excited to get into some research for next year.

What’s your biggest challenge as an art student?

This is my fourth stint at university (technically my fifth, but the third one didn’t really work out…) and I wish I could go back and tell 16-year-old me how good she had it – all the time in the world! The challenge at the moment is just not having enough time to wander, think, visit the library as well as do everything else “adults” have to do.

Where do you work?

I am Exhibitions Officer at Pātaka Art + Museum in Porirua. There’s a lot I like about it, not least of which is the sunshine that comes into our main atrium, working with artists and curators to solve their problems, building crates, and visits from my great aunt and uncle.

Turumeke Harrington, "Te Āwhiowhio", 2020 Steel, electrical components

Describe your creative process.

A combination of organisation, procrastination and always a bit of panic. I like deadlines and I really enjoy working against constraints. I would describe myself as a "90%er" as opposed to a perfectionist, whilst I really like details and solving trivial problems I’m also okay with calling time on a project and try to always be finished before the deadline (even if not by much).

How do you measure success?

If my daughter likes it, I reckon I’ve done well. Aside from that I think success is having learnt something and knowing that I put in genuine effort.

What materials are integral in your work?

At the moment I am working a lot with mild sheet steel that I have laser cut and powder-coated, nylon cord that I have custom manufactured in Levin and domestic electrical components – white extension leads, LED bulbs and lamp holders. When I have more time I also like to work in silver and gold, ceramics and textiles. Jack of all trades, master of...

What role does the artist have in society?

My partner and I talk about this a lot, mainly I’m trying to justify to myself what value there is in making art… I think that the artist has a unique opportunity to poke fun at the games and structures our societies have devised and to connect people through their work.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was at primary school I wanted to be an astrophysicist but in reality I am scared of the dark and I can’t comprehend the infinite expansion of the universe. When I grow up I want to be happy and to have enough time to hang out with my whānau and make cool things.

Money is no object. Which priceless artwork do you buy?

Can I buy Michael Parekowhai’s The Lighthouse? Be good to own a house, eh.

Turumeke Harrington, "Longer than I can remember", 2020 Nylon, steel, aluminium - installation view


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