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The Empire of Things – A history of ‘still-life’ with David Maskill

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Join renowned art historian David Maskill for this fascinating illustrated lecture on the still-life tradition. Tracing the history of still-life (in French ‘nature morte’ or ‘dead nature’) through 17th century Holland where it was used both to celebrate the unique economic prosperity of the Dutch and offer commentary on the futility of amassing worldly possessions through to its contemporary transformation in the photography of Fiona Pardington. Explore the elaborate taxonomy of hidden symbolism conjured by specific objects; moral messages; historical references; and warnings.

This lecture is presented as part of Fiona Pardington: te whitinga o te pō (the shining lady of the night), a major commission unveiled by The Dowse Foundation to mark The Dowse’s 50th Anniversary. This unique installation-based project includes the artists signature photography alongside one of her first sculptural explorations in hues of shining gold. Inspired by the skull of an extinct huia from Pardington’s personal collection, this suite of works act as both a homage and a moment of contemplation for the loss of this significant taonga. Weaving indigenous and colonial histories together. Te whitinga o te pō (the shining lady of the night) can be seen as both a memento mori and cautionary tale during a time of climate change and environmental adversity.

David Maskill studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art and then took up a position as a senior lecturer in the art history programme at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand from 1993-2019. As an independent scholar he is a specialist in French 18th-century art and the history of prints.