Sheree Willman (Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitane) is a Wellington artist whose paintings are inspired by raranga (traditional Māori weaving). In particular, she is informed by her love for the intricate patterns of tukutuku panels, at her own Makirikiri Wharenui and the wharenui at Waitangi, and taniko (woven border designs). For this exhibition, her first solo show, Sheree spent many hours researching taniko from the kākahu (cloak) collection at Te Papa.
A mother of three, Sheree only started painting fulltime three years ago when she finally had a dedicated studio space. Paint marks on her kitchen table attest to the struggle of being both an artist and a mother. “Now all my children have left home, it’s my time,” she says. And she’s not wasting any of it.
Sheree’s paintings are meticulous and precise. She describes herself as a perfectionist and spends up to eight hours just drawing up a pattern before she begins to paint. Each painting can take between 20 to 30 hours in total to complete. Sheree masks off areas with tape and slowly builds up layers of paint. She employs transparent layers and highlights of gold, silver and copper that transform the painting as the light changes. Viewers often get very close to her paintings to admire the layers and sharp details she creates.
Sheree’s work is already gaining recognition and she was recently invited by artist Sandy Adsett to submit work for the exhibition TIKA TONU, 30 Kahungunu Artists at Hastings City Art Gallery. Her work is also on the cover of Hēmi Kelly’s books A Māori Phrase a Day and A Māori Word a Day.
See more of Sheree’s work on her Instagram @sheree.willman