Fiona Pardington, Michael Zavros | Beyond Surface Affect | Art Basel Hong Kong 2018
29.03 - 31.03
Starkwhite will present new work by Fiona Pardington (NZ) and Michael Zavros (AUS) at Art Basel Hong Kong 2018 in an exhibition titled Beyond Surface Affect. Both artists produce strikingly beautiful artworks – Pardington with her large-format photographs and Zavros with his trademark photo-realist paintings – where something on the surface is the source of something incomparably larger. The two complementary bodies of work, with their surfaces of excessive perfectionism, will operate as a meditation on the fluctuating relationship between outward appearance and the conveyance of ideas and emotions.
Fiona Pardington has made it part of her practice to reanimate dead material she finds near her home or in museums around the world: birds, mushrooms, plaster life casts of Maori heads, fragments of archival handwriting. She interrogates death and celebrates collecting and preservation.
The new work for Art Basel Hong Kong comes from her ongoing project, Nabokov’s Blues: The Charmed Circle.
As a famous novelist of his time, Vladimir Nabokov often featured on the cover of or inside Time, Life, Vogue, and the like, catching butterflies—and so became also the most famous lepidopterist of his time. Most assumed he was just a hobbyist, although a few specialists realized he was a world-class scientist, as has been borne out in research, books, and exhibitions from the 1980s to the 2010s.
A Nabokov lover since her teens, Pardington was stunned to read in 2011 how science had vindicated his hunches about the populating of the Americas by the Blues he specialized in. To pay homage, she has photographed, in European and American museums, only butterflies Nabokov caught and killed, words or diagrams in his hand, butterfly images on printed pages he marked: “The butterflies must be his own, their thorax crushed by the fingers that held the pen with which he wrote. Butterflies taken, like relics. One degree of separation. Love and death fold together.”
Her photographs disclose the beauty and strangeness of what he could see in “the charmed circle of the microscope”.
Pardington’s work springs from a strong Māori knowledge base, evident in the relationship it establishes with the forces and objects of the natural world through concepts of kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and mauri (spirit) – the very values Pardington sees reflected back in Nabokov’s relationship with his butterflies.
Both artists revel in the power and beauty of natural forms, teasing out the delicate relationships that exist between nature and culture and the forms of knowledge and practices that preserve or threaten these relationships.
Michael Zavros paints beautiful things beautifully. His subjects include European palaces, gardens and follies; up-market men’s fashion, flowers, luxury cars and jewellery; Lipizzaner dressage horses and Japanese pedigree onagadori chickens.
Increasingly the artist is turning his gaze inward, to home and self, making work that engages with beauty and the culture of narcissism. The Zavros lifestyle is depicted and documented in his art. He paints what he appears to have become – a poster boy for a life perfected. He lives an outwardly perfect life, perfectly groomed for lifestyle magazines and shared through social media – he has 95,000 followers on Instagram.
Zavros’s artworks present at first glance as perfectly rendered photo-realist painting, but they generate readings and responses beyond the surface affect. They underscore contemporary society’s obsession with beauty and vanity. Like advertising, what is being created in a Zavros painting is not so much an object, a type of physical thing, but rather an artificial need or desire. “It is part of the function of narcissism — the aim of narcissism,” writes psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, “to expose by provocation the narcissism of those with whom it comes into contact.”
Fiona Pardington Bio
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.
At the heart of Fiona Pardington’s 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. 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 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 is renowned for her ability to breathe life force back into these objects and to raise global awareness of the importance of conservation. She interrogates death and celebrates collecting and preservation.
Pardington, who last year was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was in 2016 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 Moët et Chandon Fellowship (France) in 1991-92, the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in both 1996 and 1997, the Ngai Tahu residency at Otago Polytechnic in 2006 and both the Quai Branly Laureate award, La Résidence de Photoquai, and the Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2011. Pardington has created staggering works as a result of these opportunities.
Her work has been included in several important group exhibitions and biennalesincluding: Middle of Now | Here, Honolulu Biennial 2017; 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.
In 2008 the New Zealand Government gifted a suite of her heitiki prints to the Musé 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 Musée du Quai Branly in 2011. In the same year the Govett-Brewster Gallery and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery 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 to 1840. An accompanying catalogue was published by Otago University Press. This series has continued to be exhibited and discussed by academics and curators from all over the world and will be featured in Oceania at the Royal Academy of Arts later this year. Susan Best, in her book Reparative aesthetics, argues that art has the capacity to heal shameful histories, closely examining the work of four female photographers, including Fiona.
Fiona Pardington’s survey exhibition A Beautiful Hesitation, profiling 30 years of practice, opened at City Gallery Wellington in 2015. It then traveled to Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery in 2016. An accompanying book of the same name, bringing together new and classic writings on the artist’s work, was published by Victoria University Press.
Fiona’s most recent project, Nabokov’s Blues: The Charmed Circle (completed with support from the world’s leading Nabokov scholar, Professor Brian Boyd) documents Vladimir Nabokov’s archives held in European and American museums. Pardington photographed only butterflies Nabokov caught and killed, words or diagrams in his hand, butterfly images on printed pages he marked. This series was launched at Honolulu Biennial in March 2017, and has since traveled to London Art Fair. A new presentation will be exhibited at Art Basel Hong Kong, March 2018, and following this an extensive exhibition of 58 works, curated by Jenny Harper, will be exhibited at The New York Public Library from June – October.
Fiona Pardington lives and works in New Zealand.
Michael Zavros Bio
Michael Zavros is a leading Australian artist. His work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Europe. He graduated from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University with a Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1996.
In 2012 Zavros was awarded the inaugural Bulgari Art Award through the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2016 he won the Mosman Art Prize and in 2010 he was awarded the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, the world’s richest prize for portraiture. He has won three major Australian drawing prizes: the 2002 Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award, the 2005 Robert Jacks Drawing Prize and the 2007 Kedumba Drawing Award. He has been a multiple Archibald Prize finalist and was the recipient of the 2004 MCA Primavera Collex Art Award.
Major exhibitions include Surface Affect at Govett Brewster Gallery, New Zealand, 2017, Selectively Revealed, an Asialink and Experimenta Media Arts touring exhibition 2012, and Uncanny (the unnaturally strange), Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand 2007, the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art 2016, Art Gallery of South Australia, GOMA Q at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2015, Wilderness at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2010, Scott Redford Vs Michael Zavros at the Institute of Modern Art, 2010, Contemporary Australia: Optimism at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2008, and Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 2000.
Zavros was the subject of a major survey exhibition, Magic Mike in 2017 at Newcastle Art Gallery. Other solo exhibitions include Bad Dad at Starkwhite, Auckland, 2014, A Private Collection: Artist Choice, Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art, The Prince, Rockhampton Art Gallery and Griffith University Art Gallery, The Good Son: Works on Paper, a survey exhibition at Gold Coast City Art Gallery, 2009, Everything I wanted at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane 2003, and solo exhibitions at Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016 and Art Basel Hong Kong 2015 with Starkwhite, New Zealand.
Zavros has been the recipient of several international residencies including a 2017 residency at PACC in Shanghai, the Australia Council Greene Street Studio, New York in 2015, and the Australia Council Barcelona studio in both 2005 and 2010, and the Australia Council Milan studio residency in 2001. In 2003 he was awarded a Cite International des Arts Residency in Paris through the Power Institute, University of Sydney. In 2004 he was awarded a studio residency at the Gunnery Studios, Sydney, from the NSW Ministry for the Arts.
In 2016 he was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia to paint Dame Quentin Bryce, and in 2013 by the Australian War Memorial to paint a portrait of Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
Michael Zavros served on the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts between 2007 and 2011 and currently serves on the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) board, and the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University Advisory Committee.
His work is held in numerous private and public collections, including The National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, University of Queensland Art Museum, Artbank, National Portrait Gallery, Griffith University Art Collection, Newcastle Region Art Gallery and Tasmanian Museum and Gallery.