A Kōrero with Armin Schmidt

The Local Rag caught up for a kōrero with local artist, Armin Schmidt. Schmidt’s solo exhibition “HOKA” will be on show at La Petite Galerie, Raglan, with the opening night on the 22nd of April. Doors are open from 6pm to view the exhibition, accompanied by music from DMTH (Deep Minimal, Techno & House). The exhibition will be on until the 28th of April.

The artist has incorporated many ethos into his work, such as using sustainable materials and giving back to the mental health foundation with every piece sold, meaning everything is created with regards to the greater good. You may recognise some of Schmidt’s work from the positive signage around town – which originated around town during lockdown.

Who are you?

Kia ora

Ko Armin tōku ingoa No Hāmene ahau

Ko Whaingaroa tōku kainga inaianei

Tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna koutou katoa

My name is Armin Schmidt and I am an artist living in Whāingaroa. Ever since I was a child I have been overflowing with energy, wanting to move and create. In fact, wanting to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle was all I wanted to do growing up as a little boy in Germany. I somehow turned that vision into reality by devoting my time to being a mixed martial artist and started with karate lessons when I was 7 years old. Art was the only thing in the world that helped me to be calm and still as a child. I guess not much has changed since.

Being creative has never been encouraged by my parents simply because it was not perceived as something to make a career in, so I went on to complete multiple engineering degrees. After graduating again in 2014, I decided to make a change and swap a corporate working approach in Germany for a sustainability project that would take me around the world. A close friend and I started an initiative that would let us eventually cycle 10,000km, through 15 countries, from Germany to Pakistan. We delivered an environmental project for children, “Recycling with Tim Turtle,” to 10 different schools along the journey, promoting environmental conservation to the next generation. I returned to Aotearoa to work as a kaiako shortly after finishing the project, and I have been working at a local early childhood education centre, “Let’s Grow”, in Raglan ever since. Children have an innate creativity, and my work as a kaiako reignited my passion for art.

What do you do/create?

I create contemporary art, mostly from recycled or upcycled resources; essentially creating something from very little. I source my art supplies almost predominantly from Xtreme Zero Waste here in Whāingaroa. I also feel very lucky to have the support of the generous community. I have been for example gifted leftover paints from renovations before. Shout out to my dear friend Yoda from “Jedi Painter and Decorator”, who regularly drops off residue craft materials that help fuel my artworks. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

Can you please tell us about your street art/signs in and around Raglan?

It all started during the first lockdown period in 2020. I had some leftover plywood and came up with the idea to turn it into a sign to put by my letterbox. The aim was to leave a positive trace on peoples days when they passed by. It all links back to mental health and trying to have a beneficial impact even if it seems small on some else’s life. I also started to incorporate more Te Reo Māori in my messages, sometimes even full whakatauki to simply honour the beautiful culture of Aotearoa I am fortunate to live amongst. Eventually I decided to put them in different places around town and it seems I have now settled at the ‘one lane’ bridge. In my opinion the bridge defines the supportive spirit of the Whāingaroa community by giving and receiving a small gesture of letting someone pass. We are also forced to slow down for a brief moment, and that is the moment I would like to leave someone with encouragement; perhaps an uplifting feeling they can carry through their day.

Why do you create, is there any special inspiration or meaning/end goal behind anything you create?

I create because there is an urge to express. Practising visual art, or any type of art is therapeutic to me, like drilling mixed martial arts techniques is. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day you can physically train your body, or practice the different aspects of martial arts, and so creating art is another avenue to get emotional release and express what is inside of me. When my body is tired, sore and broken to pieces, my creativity can still flow through painting, collages, or creative writing. Making art in whatever form or shape puts me at peace, it brings me joy, connects me to other creative people, and it’s an educational medium – a chance to communicate, and to connect with the environment I live in.

Talking about close connections – personally, I have lost a lot of friends and whānau to drug addiction and suicide, and so I developed a strong partnership with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand over the past few years. Part of my ethos as an artist is to donate a percentage of every sale to a charity program. The driving force behind the objective is my beloved mother that always encouraged me to give back since I can remember. She always said: “Son, no matter how little you have, you have to share and support people around you.” She is the most loving, caring person I have ever met. I love you mum.

So the overall aim is to support people with their day to day mental challenges that life sometimes provides, and of course raise awareness around the topic; normalise the conversation of mental health in general. In fact, twenty percent from each artwork sold goes directly to the MHF. The approach for my upcoming solo exhibition “HOKA” will be no different.

What is your ethos when it comes to creating?

As an artist you are tempted to say that you want to inspire. However, I would like to present an open invitation through my mahi to communicate, to help people connect with their dreams, past memories, to eventually create an emotional response. Whatever resources are available will then dictate the creation process and outcome. I don’t like to be limited in my approach, rather to create art with whatever is around me, whenever I feel inspired. Taking what is around me, filtering it through my being, and to eventually channel it on a medium of choice.

A final note;

I would like to take the time to thank a few people who have helped me with my journey as an artist so far. Special thanks to “The Wharf Gallery”, “Rock-it Kitchen”, and “Craft Hamilton” for giving me the chance to display my mahi. I am also very grateful that “The Local Rag” gifted me with this amazing opportunity to introduce myself to the community. Lastly and once again thank you to my mother; nothing would be possible without her unconditional love and support.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa – Let us keep close together, not far apart. Arohanui.