Fiona Pardington - Unnerved - GOMA - 2/3

Unnerved explores a particularly rich dark vein that recurs in New Zealand contemporary art and cinema. Psychological or physical unease pervades many works in the exhibition, with humour, parody and poetic subtlety among the strategies used by artists across generations and genres.

In 2001, Fiona Pardington began a body of work examining collections of cultural objects in New Zealand's museums. Through the process of studying, selecting, assembling and then photographing -- shells, birds and 'hei tiki' (personal ornaments) -- Pardington engages with the complex interplay of culture, science and history, while also questioning the ethics of museum acquisition, classification and display. The artist says of her work:

'. . . through the discipline of [the] photographic still life, I retrace the fragile limits of the speaking subject and in approaching the object with love, I wish also to touch upon the incommensurate nature of our taonga [treasures].'

'Hei tiki' carry the wearer's 'whakapapa' (genealogy) and are vested with a unique cultural authority. They connect individual ancestry with the longstanding traditions of carving and link the spiritual and physical realms. The Maori have a sophisticated system of beliefs around the existence of bird life, and these beliefs have inspired literature, lore and legend. Some species are believed to possess spiritual connections to deities, while others were once captured for their flavour or prized for their trading potential. These works reveal a lingering beauty that plays on our fascination with mortality and our perceptions of the natural world.

Source: Gallery of Modern Art