Elam graduate named a Knight

03 May 2016
Fiona pardington cast head
Fiona Pardington: Portrait of a life-cast of Matoua Tawai (right profile), Aotearoa/New Zealand, 2010. Courtesy of the Musée de l'Homme, Paris

Elam School of Fine Arts alumna Fiona Pardington has been named a Knight (Chevalier) of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres) by the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, at a ceremony held at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) was established in 1957 to recognise eminent artists and writers who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The award is in recognition of Fiona's in-depth photographic work and research of the collections held in multiple French Museums. Fiona is the first New Zealand visual artist to receive such an honour.

In 2009 she was awarded the Quai Branly Laureate award; La Residence de Photoquai. This was Pardington’s second French residency, following her Moet et Chandon Fellowship in 1991-1992.

For her residency with the Musée du Quai Branly, Fiona photographed more than fifty casts of Māori, Pacific and European heads, including casts of her ancestors, held in the Musée Flaubert et d’Histoire de la Medecine in Rouen, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

The renowned photographer, of Māori (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe and Ngāti Kahungunu) and Scottish (Clan Cameron of Erracht) descent, graduated from Elam School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1984, a Master of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) in 2003, before completing a Doctor of Fine Arts in 2013.

“We at Elam are thrilled that our alumna Fiona Pardington has been given this singular honour by the citizens of the French Republic. Her work is in the collection of the prestigious Musee Quai Branly and her practice has had a special relationship to France since her first residency there in 1990. The conferment of the Chevalier dans l’order des Arts et Lettres concedes with a major retrospective of her work currently on display at the Auckland Art Gallery which includes many beautiful and deeply moving photographs made in France over the past 25 years,” says Dr Peter Shand, Head of Elam School of Fine Arts.

The survey of Fiona’s work, A Beautiful Hesitation, featuring more than 100 images is on at the Auckland Art Gallery until 19 June. In 2017 the artist will take part in the first Honolulu Biennale.