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The pressure of sunlight falling

09 May 2011
Fiona Pardington:

The pressure of sunlight falling

Opens at the Govett-Brewster 11 June 2011

Image: Fiona Pardington, Portrait of a life cast of Koe (painted), Timor 2010. Courtesy of the artist, Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland and the Musée de l'Homme, (Musée d’Histoire Naturelle), Paris

Fiona Pardington’s The pressure of sunlight falling is a powerful series of large-scale photographs that feature life-casts including those of indigenous peoples of the South Pacific taken during one of French explorer Dumont d’Urville’s nineteenth-century voyages.

Each measuring about 1.7m x 1.4m framed, these 21 photographs depict casts of human heads made by the medical scientist and phrenologist Pierre-Marie Alexandre Dumoutier. The selection presented at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery traces the path of their voyage between 1837 and 1840.

The majority of the casts photographed are in the collection of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, one of the museums that form the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle.

The people who agreed to the arduous process of having a cast made included Māori chiefs, men and women from communities throughout the Pacific and Dumoutier and d’Urville themselves.

Govett-Brewster director and exhibition curator Rhana Devenport says Pardington examines the ways in which the photography of objects and the proto-photographic medium of casting can register empathy and the presence of former lives.

“The exhibition of photographs explores the meanings, histories and functions of nineteenth-century life casts while examining the unique, emotive power of photographic portraiture,” Ms Devenport says.

A photographer of international reputation, Pardington has exhibited widely in Australasia and in France at the Musée du Quai Branly. A selection from this series was included in the 2010 Biennale of Sydney under the title Ahua: A Beautiful Hesitation.

A beautifully illustrated book entitled Fiona Pardington: The Pressure of Sunlight Falling will be launched at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition opening on Saturday June 11. The book, edited by Kriselle Baker and Elizabeth Rankin and designed by Neil Pardington, is published by Otago University Press in association with the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Two Rooms Gallery. Writers include Nicholas Thomas, Dame Anne Salmond and David Elliott.

Fiona Pardington: The pressure of sunlight falling is presented June 11 to August 28, 2011. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery will then tour the exhibition to the Dunedin Public Art Gallery in September.

Also presented at the Govett-Brewster from June 18 to August 28, 2011 is Presence: New Acquisitions and Works from the Collection, featuring Colin McCahon’s seminal Parihaka triptych and other works from the Gallery’s permanent collection.

Since the mid-1960s the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery has been building a strong permanent collection of work from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific. The Collection currently holds more than 860 works.

This exhibition presents important new acquisitions by photographers Mark Adams and Peter Peryer, alongside works by Tony Fomison, Lisa Reihana, Shigeyuki Kihara, Jacqueline Fraser, earlier works by Fiona Pardington, Hiroyuki Matsukage, and Hany Armanious who represents Australia in this year’s La Biennale di Venezia.


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