22 August - 22 November 2015

Fiona Pardington: A Beautiful Hesitation

Fiona Pardington is an artist of Scottish (Clan Cameron of Erracht) and Maori (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Ngati Kahungunu) descent. She is one of New Zealand’s most important and celebrated photographers. A Beautiful Hesitation is the largest exhibition of her work to date, with over 100 photographs, spanning 30 years. Its title comes from the artist’s description of photography as a “hesitation in time”. “Taking a photograph is like tilting at windmills. It’s taking on the universe”, she says.

For Pardington, each of her photographs is "a sovereign world", carrying its own logic, experiences and pressures, and often intersecting with her viewers’ desires in confronting, disarming ways. Her approach has brought forth some of the most beautiful, challenging and affecting photographs made in—and often about—this country.

Incorporating material salvaged from New Zealand’s beaches, riverbeds and secondhand stores, Pardington's majestic still-lifes transform this historic European genre into something wondrously and problematically other. Her long-term investigation of museum collections, in New Zealand and abroad, similarly breathes new life and possibilities into a variety of objects, including heitiki, natural-history specimens, life casts made on European voyages of discovery, and death casts of French criminals and assassins who met the guillotine’s blade. Pardington has always channelled photography’s ability to empower and transform the found object. Her series One Night of Love re-presents photographs of softcore female nudes destined for men’s magazines, while The Medical Suite re-presents photographs of disease from medical textbooks. In all her work, the personal and political—and ways of looking and being—are forcefully intertwined.

A Beautiful Hesitation is the first exhibition to map the "sovereign world" of Pardington’s oeuvre, foregrounding her investment in photography as a portal between the material and immaterial, the known and unknown, and acceptable and transgressive behaviours. It has been developed in association with Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery, and will be accompanied by a new book bringing together new and classic writings on the artist’s work, published by Victoria University Press.

Fiona Pardington has a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland. In 2011, New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery mounted her solo exhibition The Pressure of Sunlight Falling, with an accompanying book published by Otago University Press. That year, she also became an Arts Foundation Laureate. Pardington's residencies include the Moet et Chandon Fellowship (Epernay, 1991–2), Frances Hodgkins Fellowship (Dunedin, 1996 and 1997), and Ngai Tahu Residency (Dunedin, 2006). She has been included in many City Gallery group exhibitions, including Tender Is the Night (2011), Cultural Safety (1996), Alter/Image (1993), and Imposing Narratives (1989). Other group shows include Fragments of Empires (Momentum, Berlin, 2014), Ukraine Biennale (2012) and Biennale of Sydney (2010).

Read a full biography on the Arts Foundation website. Fiona Pardington is represented by Starkwhite, Auckland.

Buy the catalogue online.

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