Collection

Mrs K
Fiona Pardington

1994

Fiona Pardington
b.
1961
Title:
Mrs K
Production date:
1994
Accession No:
97/14
Media:
Black and white photograph

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth

Mrs K is a haunting image which confronts its viewers with its visceral subject matter. A weird, grisly jumble of false teeth, stacked up like a macabre totem pole, glows white before a dense black background. These are plaster of Paris dental casts used for making dentures. Each is customised for a particular individual’s mouth, as is evident by the scrawled label on the central cast, ‘Mrs K’. Despite their prosaic purpose, the casts exude a kind of Gothic horror. As doubles or facsimiles, they operate on a psychological level as manifestations of what Sigmund Freud termed the “uncanny”; the threatening return of something which was once familiar, but which has been repressed or forgotten.

The false teeth in Mrs K are almost comical in the way they seem to gnash and grimace, dislocated from any body. There is a tangible sense in the photograph of the absent bodies from which these casts were made, and an attendant consternation about the frailty of a human body which requires prosthetic teeth. Who is Mrs K? Is she still alive, or are these disembodied teeth her only remaining corporeal trace? Like a photograph, a dental cast is a likeness of an original which can itself be replicated endlessly. This uncanny doubling allows something familiar to take on a life of its own, opening the possibility of its ghostly and unexpected return.