On a billboard at the corner of Mount Pleasant Rd and Manor Rd is a monochrome image of a young woman cleaning a toilet. ‘Saint Shelley’ is the only text. It looks like one of those fashion brands, Saint Laurent being one,  which references a life style while keeping the actual product hidden in plain sight, but fashion and loo cleaning are an odd pairing.  Other images have appeared by bus-stops: Saint Kate, Saint Liz, women coping with everyday complexities and pressures of care.

The billboard appeared shortly after the centenary of women’s suffrage. ‘Saint Shelley’. She occupies not even a third of the image. She has a quiet sense of abstraction which reminds me of genre paintings of women on their own, though they are generally preparing food, doing the laundry or being overwhelmed by a romantic letter. Saints.

My guess is the artifice of fashion and life-style advertising is being used to question the value we put on those ordinary essential rituals involved in caring for one’s family. How should we value things that don’t carry a hefty price tag? Is financial endorsement the only, or the right way of attributing value? And are the things which do have a financial value, deserving of it, especially when the world they offer is inimical to the things, usually non material things,  which in reality make people content, balanced, fulfilled?

Of course there are many men out there too now, single dads, doing exactly the same everyday tasks. Our culture objectifies men too, as meal tickets, mortgage and diy providers; and children, as recipients of commodities.

A large amount of our public space is taken up with commercial messages which carry an ideology, one which reflects to us an image not of well-rounded, multi-faceted individuals, but of one that is aspirational and materialist, values which can intrude and distort our sense of ourselves and our intimate relationships.

Have we become immune to the way commercial interests intrude on our private lives? Should we now be reclaiming these public spaces for more humanitarian purposes? Is this the point of these images? It looks like brandalism to me.

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