Perceived Obsolescence (self portrait), 2012
Ink on paper, 105 x 75cm
I have a new show about to open. It's a big one for me- I've been working on it for ages.
Large watercolour and gouache works on paper in hand-painted frames. A serious undertaking for a hugely pregnant mama like myself!
In terms of subject matter it is pretty oblique in many ways, but literal in others. In some ways I like to think it is about the looming obsolescence of painting and art in general. More specifically it's just about my interest in objects that have no purpose anymore, or are destined for landfill but still possess a right to be kept and loved and studied. I am saddened by the never-ending waste we create with our design obsessions and the inescapable black balloons of carbon we create every day as a result of our privileged 'lifestyles.'
Anyway, it's not all doom and gloom. There are some happy things in there too, like old wooden bead toys!
Come along and let me know what you think-
Opening is March 16, 2013. From 2pm - 4pm (bring your kids)
show runs until April 13.
Helen Gory Galerie
25 St Edmonds Rd, Prahran.
My good friend Ace Wagstaff wrote this about the show;
The first verses of the Christian Bible1, the country infused opening track on post-punk band Timbuk3’s debut album2, the first lines spoken by Dr. Schreber in 1998 sci-fi ‘Dark City’3, and numerous quotes about moving forward into the light have cemented the idea that the past is dark, and the duality of now and the future is bright.
I find this a curious notion, particularly because nostalgia is almost always seen through rose coloured glasses. Big brands, especially Coca-cola, have often repackaged their product with yester-years form in the hope that we’ll buy when we recall a time of ignorance, before we knew the sickly sweet soda could kill over-consumers.
Nostalgia is a dangerous predator of the mind. Not only can it distort our own past into some glorious farce to be longed after in vain4, it can also lure us to pasts well before our own time, make us pine for a history outside of our own, with the mere application of an Instagram filter.
Regardless of whether it’s a person, a pub, a relationship, an object, a group, or a toy, if it’s dead, gone and obsolete, you can bet that as humans, nostalgia will kick in, edit gratuitously in favour of that which is no more, and leave us with a sad, longing, happiness. Tai Snaith knows this and has simplified the curious phenomena down to two words: ‘Sweet Obsolete’.
This proposition would be fine if the amount emotional investment requested of us was finite, however Edward Bernays, the mastermind who conceptually collaged his uncle Freud’s psychoanalytical ideas into the advertising we see today and can be aptly called “the father of modern emotive commercialisation”5, has created a culture of commercial consumption and has kept us “buying shit that we don’t need”6.
Even worse, we can get caught in repetitious Pavlovian-conditioned cycles of buying: you ever hear of someone (or yourself) wanting to go shopping as a celebration, because they were sad, or because they were bored, or all three?
Snaith’s ‘Sweet Obsolete’ seeks to find its way through the dark of the past, between the tumultuous onslaught of the never ending production of consumerist clutter, and the personal, nostalgic and often sweet connections we have with the products of this suicidally self-destructive and unsustainable model.
It seems only natural that this inquest be handled in the oft announced dead mediums of painting and drawing. The sweet obsolete subjects featured within the work are depicted as old and tired, seemingly washed out and drained of colour over time. The model lighthouse, VHS tapes, polaroid camera, wooden hat stand and handcrafted toys are all refuges of a time no longer, strangers in a new chapter of digitalisation.
I wonder what children would make of a game in which wooden beads threaded on a linear piece of wire slide along their set course, over a bump here, round a loop and back again. In today’s Age of the App children can hone their hand-eye coordination with video games that utilise gesture recognition technology, and allow them to become virtual Fruit Ninjas7, slicing up fresh airborne produce into a colourful splattering of vegetive pixels on screen. Similarly, two years ago a child in grade one, only 6 years old, set about explaining Portal 28 to me and the physics involved, including descriptions to gravity, inertia, acceleration and energy, in an hour long conversation.
These objects are anachronisms, ghosts of craftsmanship among high-scores and in-game unlocked achievements, singing out meekly in old age of a personal hand-carved nostalgia lost to the cheaply manufactured and quickly turned-over plastic-povera of the ever becoming now.
Snaith murkily channels Escher9 with plastic-povera black magic to help consider these issues, by gazing deep into the reflective surface of a balloon, and simultaneously takes an analogue selfie via the act of painting, bridging the gap across time and space, not only between her and the genius of the past, but also with every ego-centric teen girl and gen-Y-er who has ever captured their own grandeur in a bathroom mirror with a smart phone. This ultimately is a bitten thumb at the gods within the annals of art history, but is also an upright middle finger at the boring, commonness of contemporary pop-culture and social fads that have become the daily modus operandi.
We all “like things, I like things, I like things a lot”10 but what can we really do with the detritus of a life informed by “the ikea nesting instinct”6? Do we simply “give it away” as RHCP suggest11? These objects now devoid of meaning without function, empty signifiers, hanging onto our sentimentality, are literally stacked in the gallery space to form totems, obelisks of the dead weight, and the beauty of their original design now a distant memory; it’s as sad, as poignant (and a little bit funny) as a prom-queen in a nursing home.
Snaith treads gently and cautiously: examining artefacts, documenting them, and exploring how they these, “things”10, relate to each other and whether they can give each other, or ourselves, new meaning and value, outside of attributing to the worlds ever growing collection of material objects and inevitable trash.
Ace Wagstaff, 2013.
1 “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Genesis, Chapter 1 Verses 3-5, The Holy Bible NIV.
2 Timbuk3. (1986). The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades. On Greetings from Timbuk 3 [CD]. (1986).
3 Dark City
4 Rabin, Nathan. (2009). The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You by Pop Culture.
5 Lourde, T. Dove. (2012). Some Were Burnt.
6 Fincher, David. (Director), Chuck Palahniuk (Writer/Novel), Jim Uhls (Writer/Screenplay). (1999). Fight Club [Motion picture].
7 Halfbrick Studios (Developer). (2010). Xbox 360 [Platform]. (2011).
8 Valve Corporation (Developer). (2011). Xbox 360 [Platform]. (2011).
9 Escher, M.C. (Artist). (1935). Self-Portrait In Spherical Mirror [Lithograph].
10 Creed, Martin. (1999). I like things. On Covers [CD]. (2003).
11 Red Hot Chilli Peppers. (1991). Give It Away. On Blood Sugar Sex Magic [CD]. (1991).