Contemporary New Zealand artist Fiona Pardington is of Scottish and Mâori descent (Ngäi Tahu). She graduated from the University of Auckland, School of Fine Arts (Elam) in 1984 in photography and emerged associated with neo-feminist artists in the late 1980s. At that time Pardington exhibited erotic images of the male nude, challenging notions around the ‘male gaze’ and drawing attention to representation and sexual politics in Western culture.
Since around 2000 Pardington has exhibited images of Mâori taonga (hei tiki, shells, stuffed native birds and their feathers) kept in storage in public museums. Pardington laments the loss of meaning and history in these taonga to both the idigenous and implanted cultures in New Zealand, (Mâori and Pākehā) but implicit in their display is a context for renewed readings and interpretations.
Fiona Pardington has received many fellowships, residencies, awards and grants including the Moet & Chandon Fellowship (France) 1991-92, the Frances Hodgkins Fellow in both 1996 and 1997, the Ngai Tahu residency at Otago Polytechnic in 2006 and an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2011. The Laureate Award is for excellence across a range of art forms for an artist with prominence and outstanding potential for future growth.
Her work has been included in several important group exhibitions including 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 Musee du Quai Branly, Paris. 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, Dunedin. Pardington’s work was included in the international touring exhibitions of New Zealand art Cultural Safety in 1996 in Frankfurt and Aachen, Germany.
She is represented in the collections of Te Papa - Museum of New Zealand and the Christchurch Art Gallery, amongst many other public collections in New Zealand.