Fiona Pardington: The pressure of sunlight falling

Fiona Pardington

Kelly Loney; kellyl@govettbrewster.com

from 06/2011

Rhana Devenport

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

Fiona Pardington’s ‘The pressure of sunlight falling’ is a series of photographs that depict 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.

Fiona Pardington (Ngâi Tahu, Ngâti Mamoe, Ngâti Waewae, Clan Cameron) considers the ways in which photography of objects, and the proto-photographic medium of casting, register empathy and the presence of former lives. This exhibition explores the meanings, histories and functions of nineteenth-century life casts, while examining the unique power of photographic portraiture, bringing together the psychoanalytical, philosophical and metaphysical threads of Pardington’s practice.

The portraits engage with Dumoutier’s plaster positives of individuals from the Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea, from East Timor to Aotearoa. Dumoutier himself was the subject of his own life-casting and is in turn re-cast in Pardington’s series in a complex circuitry of re-presentation.

Nineteenth-century European enlightenment ideas about inquiry, medical research, phrenology and other anatomical and scientific endeavours complicate the viewing of these works against a background of colonial ambition. Pardington brings a twenty-first-century perspective to these nineteenth-century modes of inquiry.

A photographer of international standing, Pardington (b. 1961, lives and works on Waiheke Island) has exhibited widely in Australasia and Europe. A selection from this series was included in the 2010 Biennale of Sydney. The associated book, ‘Fiona Pardington: The Pressure of Sunlight Falling’, is edited by Kriselle Baker and Elizabeth Rankin, and is published by Otago University Press in association with Govett-Brewster and Two Rooms Gallery.