A Visual Feast in a Light Box

4 December 2012

When a young talent admired the light box artwork of a major New Zealand artist the spark was ignited for a dynamic partnership between the two - one a photographer, the other a sculptor. Now the pair have gone on to create a visual feast in Courtenay Place's latest public light box exhibition here in Wellington.

Sculptor Cat Auburn fell in love with a Fiona Pardington photograph in 2010 while in Christchurch on an artist residency. She approached Pardington about working together for the Courtenay Place's light box exhibition; what began as an exploration of the dynamic between an emerging artist looking up to an established artist quickly expanded into a rich, multilayered collaboration.

In Looking Up to You, Auburn and Pardington swap, switch and subvert each others' artistic practices, merging contemporary and archival material to reveal an intricate tangle of past, present and future mythologies for Wellington.

Pardington is one of New Zealand's best-known artists, with an extensive exhibition history both locally and internationally. She has worked as a lecturer, tutor, assessor and moderator on many photography, design and fine arts programmes at New Zealand universities and polytechnics, and been the recipient of numerous fellowships, residencies, awards and grants.

"I've always admired Fiona, ever since discovering her work while at art school," says Auburn, who has exhibited widely in New Zealand since graduating in 2006 from Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland. "Her photographs are amazing. She has worked a lot with relics and artefacts that have been tucked away in museums for a long time, and her still life photography is so seductive. I admire her sensitivity and the difficult subject matter that she tackles."

The first step in the creative process for Auburn was the emulation of Pardington's work.

"Then I departed from it and my own work arose; it was challenging to explore concepts of desire and idolisation using the framework of another artist's practice as inspiration. While Fiona gave me a free reign with her work, I've tried to be really respectful and careful with the material. I wanted to use the same language as her and celebrate her as an artist," she says. 

The history of Wellington is a central discourse in the exhibition. Auburn made extensive use of items in the Wellington Archives and Archives New Zealand, echoing the relics commonly seen in Pardington's work.

"I wanted to recreate Fiona's images using resources that are available to me here, and show my experiences of Wellington in a subtle yet complicated way that wasn't too literal for the audience," says Auburn.

"The idea of location is central to the project. The photographs are literally and conceptually located in Wellington, but they explore much more than that. It's about contextualising the mythologies of Wellington - not just the past, but a present or future history too."

Looking Up to You

By Cat Auburn and Fiona Pardington

Courtenay Place Park light box project

12 December 2012 - 8 April 2013