Dr Fiona Pardington was born in Auckland. She is of Maori (Ngāi Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Scottish (Clan Cameron of Erracht) descent. She holds a Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland.
Fiona's early work is characterised by explorations in photographic technique. In the late 1980s she was amongst a group of women artists who challenged photography's social documentary aesthetic, prevalent in the previous decade. She created photographic constructions that incorporated photography with other materials in elaborately encrusted frames.
She went on to focus on the still-life format, recording Museum taonga (Māori ancestral treasures) and other historic objects such as hei tiki (greenstone pendants) and the now extinct huia bird. In these works, she brings to a contemporary audience an awareness of traditional and forgotten objects.
Pardington, who this year was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, was last year named a Knight (Chevalier) in the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Prime Minister. Pardington is the first New Zealand visual artist to receive this honour. At the heart of Fiona Pardington's photographic practice is an abiding concern with emotion and affect. A practitioner with over three decades experience as an exhibiting artist, she has explored the on-going capacities of photography by attending to that which is hidden or unseen in the photograph as much as what it may represent.
Early gelatin silver photographs established her reputation as a practitioner of outstanding technical ability, renowned for the exquisite character of her printing and toning. She has continued to bring such qualities of intimacy of the darkroom, refined and explored over a thirty-year period, to a current parallel interest in digital photography and printing.
What is a persistent feature of her practice is the manner in which she attains an extraordinary sense of proximity and highly nuanced consideration to her subjects (animate or otherwise) and to how these images may be experienced by her audience.