Dr Fiona Pardington was born in Auckland. She is of Maori (Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Scottish (Clan Cameron of Erracht) descent. She holds a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland.
Fiona's early work is characterised by explorations in photographic technique. In the late 1980s she was amongst a group of women artists who challenged photography's social documentary aesthetic, prevalent in the previous decade. She created photographic constructions that incorporated photography with other materials in elaborately encrusted frames. She went on to focus on the still-life format, recording Museum taonga (Māori ancestral treasures) and other historic objects such as hei tiki (greenstone pendants) and the now extinct huia bird. In these works, she brings to a contemporary audience an awareness of traditional and forgotten objects.
Pardington, who this year was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was last year named a Knight (Chevalier) in the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Prime Minister. Pardington is the first New Zealand visual artist to receive this honour.
Fiona has received many fellowships, residencies, awards and grants including the Moet & Chandon Fellow (France) in 1991-92, the Frances Hodgkins Fellow in both 1996 and 1997, the Ngai Tahu residency at Otago Polytechnic in 2006 and both a Quai Branly Laureate award; La Residence de Photoquai and the Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2011.
Her work has been included in several important group exhibitions and biennales including: lux et tenebris Momentum Worldwide, Berlin 2014; The Best of Times, The Worst of Times. Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art, Ukraine Biennale Arsenale 2012; Ahua: A beautiful hesitation, 17th Biennale of Sydney 2010, Museum of Contemporary Art; Imposing Narratives: Beyond the Documentary in Recent New Zealand Photography, 1989, Constructed Intimacies, 1989 and NowSeeHear 1990. Prospect 2001: New Art New Zealand, all at the City Art Gallery, Wellington, Slow Release: Recent Photography from New Zealand, Heide Museum of Modern Art Melbourne, Australia and the Adam Gallery, Wellington, 2002; Te Puawai O Ngai Tahu, Christchurch Art Gallery and Pressing Flesh, Skin, Touch Intimacy, Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tamaki in 2003 and Contemporary New Zealand Photographers, Pataka's International Arts Festival, Porirua, 2006.
A photographer of international reputation, Pardington has exhibited widely in Australasia and in France at the Musée du Quai Branly.
In 2008 the New Zealand Government gifted a suite of her heitiki prints to the Musee du Quai Branly, Paris. A similar work auctioned in Auckland realised the highest price in New Zealand for a photographic work at auction.
Fiona returned from Paris where she completed a Laureate Artistic Creations Project with the Musee du Quai Branly in 2011. In the same year the Govett-Brewster presented The Pressure of Sunlight Falling, a series of photographs of life casts made by medical scientist and phrenologist Pierre Dumoutier during one of French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville's South Pacific voyages from 1837-1840. An accompanying catalogue was published by Otago University Press.
Fiona Pardington’s survey exhibition A Beautiful Hesitation opened at City Gallery Wellington in 2015. It then traveled to Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery in 2016. An accompanying book bringing together new and classic writings on the artist’s work was published by Victoria University Press. Fiona lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.
At the heart of Fiona Pardington's photographic practice is an abiding concern with emotion and affect. A practitioner with over three decades experience as an exhibiting artist, she has explored the on-going capacities of photography by attending to that which is hidden or unseen in the photograph as much as what it may represent. Early gelatin silver photographs established her reputation as a practitioner of outstanding technical ability, renowned for the exquisite character of her printing and toning. She has continued to bring such qualities of intimacy of the darkroom, refined and explored over a thirty-year period, to a current parallel interest in digital photography and printing. What is a persistent feature of her practice is the manner in which she attains an extraordinary sense of proximity and highly nuanced consideration to her subjects (animate or otherwise) and to how these images may be experienced by her audience.
courtesy of the Arts Foundation, New Zealand