JTF (just the facts): A total of 18 color photographs, framed in brown wood and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the two room main gallery space, the front desk area, and in the window facing the street. Aside from 1 cibachrome print (made in 2011), all of the works are digital c-prints, made in 2012 and 2013. Physical dimensions range from 24×24 to 60×39, in editions ranging from 1 (unique) to 9+2AP. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: At first glance, Susan Derges’ new photographs bear some passing resemblance to the late 1990s River Taw photograms that became her signature. Shadows of leaves and branches once again extend over flowing water, creating natural silhouettes that fall against a backdrop of ripples and currents. But with the help of new digital tools, Derges leaves behind the elemental simplicity and graceful immediacy of those first pictures and dives into the deep end of romantic memory, adding layers of new visual elements to the underlying foundation of leaf and water.
The first new transformation to be found in these photographs is an overt change of palette. While the River Taw images fell into a tight spectrum between light blue and light green, taking their cues from the changing of the seasons and resulting fluctuations in the ambient nighttime light, these new pictures are filled with much more saturated hues: deep red, royal blue, mustard yellow, and pale pink, making the contrasts more emotional. Derges also introduces dark architectural shadows that represent wooden bridges, geometric fencing, and arched stone walkovers, adding the poetic intrusion of man into the natural compositions. Together, they change the tenor of the images, taking them from quiet studies to bolder, more contrived settings with more narrative potential. When paired with fields of stars or cloudy moonlit skies, the scenes become ephemeral moments of lost time, with much more self-conscious sentimentality.
While I am often found to be trumpeting the successes of artists who go further and make their ideas more complex, in this case, I think the delicacy which entranced me before has somehow been misplaced in these new works. The River Taw photographs had the unadorned, reverent purity of Japanese screens, but by adding more storytelling hooks to the pictures, they’ve now become a bit precious. As a result, I gravitated back to the simplest of the new compositions, where the shadowy specimens of holly, rowan, or hemlock take center stage.
Collector’s POV: The works in this show are priced between $6000 and $26000, generally based on size and place in the edition. Derges’ work can be intermittently found at auction; recent prices have ranged between $3000 and $29000.