Fiona Pardington is a New Zealand photographer of Māori (Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Scottish (Clan Cameron of Erracht) descent, who is highly regarded internationally and nationally because of her inventive formats, unpredictable techniques and extremely varied range of thematic exploration. She rose in national prominence in the late eighties with her silver gelatine prints that explore the body, the female gaze, sexuality, implied violence and fetishism, often coupled with elaborate frames or mounts covered with dense and ornate collaged text. She was part of the international ascendency of women photographers in the eighties that was a reaction against male dominance—particularly via painting—in art.Read More
As demonstrated in A Beautiful Hesitation (22 August—22 November 2015), a large travelling survey show organised by City Gallery Wellington which in 2015 presented over 100 of Pardington's photographs, over the past three decades the artist has explored a startling range of subject matter, including rare or extinct bird specimens, bird nests, partially carved hei tiki (Māori neck ornaments), vanitas still lifes, 1950s soft-core porn, imperialist phrenology, children's letter writing, ornamental glass horses, plaster fungi replicas, the butterfly watercolours of Vladimir Nabokov, and fake hei tiki. She is extraordinarily prolific.
With these assorted projects she has proven herself extremely proficient in judging the nuances of scale, colour and illumination that accompany each image. Her images have a mystery and a satisfying cultural depth that draws on the history of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and its relationship with Europe.
Over the years her practice has been characterised by a wide range of mark-making and treatment of textures and movement. In the early years of her career it demonstrated a fluidity that is not typical of somebody investigating photography, but more associated with practitioners of printmaking or painting. An expert in tonal manipulation, she likes to explore different types of photographic sensuality.
As well as participating in numerous institutional exhibitions and biennales, Pardington has been the recipient of several notable accolades: In 1991 she was awarded the Moet et Chandon Artist Residency in the small village of Avize, in Champagne, Northeast France, forming a relationship with that nation that she has maintained all her life, and in 1996 and 1997 she held the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in Dunedin. In 2011, she was awarded an Arts Foundation Laureate Award as well as a Quai Branly Laureate Award: La Residence de Photoquai. She is also the only New Zealand artist to have been made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de L'ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Government—bestowed by the French Prime Minister in New Zealand in 2016.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2019