Fiona Pardington | Objects of Desire
01.10.22 - 20.11.22
One of the principal genres of Western art history, still life’s depiction of earthly pleasure combined with a suggestion of its ephemerality and the brevity of human life match perfectly with the intertwining of dark and light, of menace and redemption, beauty and loss, that runs through Fiona Pardington’s practice. This exhibition offers a deep dive into some of the artist’s most acclaimed images from her ongoing still-life series, alongside others that have been rarely seen.
“I think its best to understand my still-life photographs as small alters or Tu Ahu” Pardington has said of her work. She often presents objects that offer a fragile beauty, one portrayed in stillness with the sensitivity of an artist who understands how to capture and interpret grand narratives with a considered selection of objects. Still life is a particular kind of visual language, one that can connect us to both the beauty of the everyday and grand human narratives. A common object or lush bouquet of exotic flowers can offer the same dreamy nostalgic tug, or stand in as symbols for broader concepts. As a medium, still life has been used to explore aesthetics and politics, the personal and the collective. Many artists from Picasso to Frida Kahlo and Yayoi Kusama found it an exemplary medium for innovation and experimentation, a familiar yet radical site for ways of understanding the world.
While the art works in Fiona Pardington: Objects of Desire share some similarities, each is as unique as the artist and moment that created it. Alongside native and introduced flora, animals, glass, and crystal, Pardington’s images also incorporate home laid eggs, coral, and a French apothecary bottle that once held opium. These lush and elegant images oscillate between depth and surface, querying the picture plane and rewarding deep and sustained looking. Her characteristically skilful use of lighting adds dynamism and intrigue to both the composition and story suggested by each arrangement of objects. Collectively Pardington’s still life works form an elegant and self-aware statement on the genre itself, a powerful exploration of existence and ephemerality for our contemporary era using the traditions of still life and its iconography.