Value

Value
1999
colour photographs and nail enamel on saucers


'Photographer Susan Fereday has been concerned, throughout her work, with objects as commodities. She isolates everyday products, such as handbags, from the persuasive zone of advertising, often by subjecting the objects to a unifying colour or surface, which reveals their shabby, used, loved history. As Carolyn Barnes writes, "She builds in devices that short-circuit the seduction and disallow passive consumption."

Fereday's Value, 1989, is based on photographs off broadcast TV, from a segment in Berger's Ways of Seeing about the role easel painting played in supporting the patron's view of the world, of confirming the value of material objects and their position in society.

These large type-C prints effect "many changes in scale and definition" in the trajectory from painting to film, from film to photograph. Fereday continues the filmic scrutiny of the objects, cropping and enlarging from Berger's close-up. The process tests the limits of context and meaning and explores, as Fereday states, "the currency of aura in contemporary art and the political nature of aesthetics."

For What John Berger Saw Fereday has returned to the 1989 series, and incorporated a new element. The found ceramic plates, coated with nail polish, mimic the process blue of the photographs, and refer us to the surface of adornment, the painted-on beauty promoted through advertising. One technological system reflects another, and the 'palpable reflection of wealth and status' is enacted on the level of yet another consumer product.'

Merryn Gates, curator, What John Berger Saw, exhibition catalogue, 1999

'Before the traditions of oil painting, medieval painters often used gold-leaf in their pictures. Later gold disappeared from paintings and was only used for their frames. Yet many oil paintings were themselves simple demonstrations of what gold or money could buy. Merchandise became the actual subject-matter of works of art.'

John Berger, Ways of Seeing