Sweet Obsolete In An Age of Repeats Art Adventures With Jessica Knight
There has been something brewing beneath the haze of that suffocating heat we all endured, throughout the first half of March. Once the weather turned, once the sky darkened and the wind became the kind that chills your wet haired head. That intangible unspoken vibe of quixotic majesty, this thing was able to flap its invisible wings and turn the course of fate out on its proverbial heel.
The gallery is called Helen Gory Gallery on St Edmonds road. The sky had grown ominous as I waited for a tram on chapel St. People watching on chapel St is never a disappointment. Visually it is like watching mannaquins walk around pretending they are human. In reality they are real people walking around pretending to be mannaquin perfect.
Since the invention of plastic by Alexander Parkes in 1862 humanity has descended into an age where over zealous production of miscellaneous , five minutes of fun, brightly coloured stuff’ has become a ridiculous and extrodinary cycle. Bells, Mary, The History of Plastics, 2013, site visited 12 march 3:23pm. It would be interesting to know to what extent Mr Parks believed his invention would change the world.
On entering the gallery foyer I am met with a large brightly lit room with a make shift bar and a very amicable barmen standing in front of a large array of shiny sparkling wine glasses.
Not even five steps in to the main gallery a man, grey haired and sporting a full beard approaches me.
”How old are you?’
He has a light Italian accent and a small glittering jewel in is left ear.
”I am 30.”
He pulls back in utter shock.
”I thought you were a little girl.”
”It is fine. I get the little girl assumption very often.”
He leans in closer. He is not very tall himself.
”Why are you so very tiny?”
”My mother was a fairy. My father met her on a trip to Iceland and they fell in love.”
His blue eyes go wide and he smiled at me the way my grandmother does at one of my more shocking comments.
I politely disentangle myself from conversing with the man so I can venture into the gallery space where people and small children are wandering around. The grown ups drink from beer bottles and wine glasses, purchased with gold coin donations. There is a mime making balloon animals and being generally brilliant at creating a perfectly synchronized connection between form, concept and invoking of the overall mood of the exhibition. A mood steeped in endearing kitch and a joyful celebration of what can be overlooked in an age of looking ever forward towards the next fad or bright new disposable trinket. The mime pranced around the space using his entire body and facial expression to convey humorous mischief with every long legged step.
Snaith’s decision to use giant bright red push pins and giant white clips to hang some of her gouache and water colour works., is a good one. This creates another layer of context to her overall aesthetic. This reminds one of kindergarten art time when you would use big thick paint strokes of red, blue and yellow to recreate you mother’s image in abstract affection. The works that were framed are all hand painted by the artist herself.
Today it is so easy to be bombarded with things we must have, we must buy, consume, covert and find room for. A childish obsession with our wants has begun to take over our perspective. This short sightedness this narrow must have and now mindset is easy to wrap ourselves up in and thus loos sight of what we need. Our needs can be quite simplistic when compared to all our wants. What has happened to the ability to merely admire something. The joy of window shopping of looking at a beautiful item of clothing and waiting a moment to consider do I really require it? The thrill of finding a truly one off item in an opp shop vs the constant rebuying of badly made cheap mass produced items that come from less then ethical work stations.
It is like we are all stamping our feet and yelling to our proverbial daddies in the style of Veruca Salt and shouting
’’I want an Oompa Loompa, now!’ (Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harper Collins, 1964).
Tai Snaith’s exhibition allows us to stop and contemplate the careful and deliberate ways she examines these artefacts of the past, before mass production and manic consumer driven lives grabbed us all by the head and the wallet.
Fistful Of Wishes, is perhaps one of my personal favourites of the entire exhibition. Within the hand painted frame rendered in gouache, watercolour and ink on paper, is a washed out looking polaroid camera. The watery colours almost liquid. Like the item is slowly fading from existence. This is ironic as the painting represents the object as something lost and forgotten. It is no longer the object of desire for young and enthusiastic lovers of the captured image. Today everyone has a camera on their phone. Within minutes you can capture an image upload it to tumblre or Instagram or facebook and have it observed and likes by thousands of people. The number of likes depending on the extent of your web presence and popularity.
What an antiquated notion it seems now, to take photos simply and slowly. Take a few moments to set up a scene or an interaction. No delete for a bad shot. It is captured and frozen, your failure to align the forground and back round adequately. When you get a perfect polaroid it is a private joy shown only to those close enough to be given access to your inner sanctum. The joys of polaroid photography is now in the modern age enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Many hip young things are revelling the retro joy a polaroid camera can instigate.
I was devastated when, on enquiring about the whereabouts of my father’s Box Brownie camera, I was informed that my grandmother had disposed of it.
She thought it was old and of no use to anyone anymore.
Today my grandmother carries a small cheap digital camera with her everywhere in order to snap at images of grand children and their parents, in varying acts of mundane day to day existence. A real life example of the word obsolescence; the state of being which occurs when an object, service or practice is no longer wanted even though it may still be in good working order. Obsolescence frequently occurs because a replacement has become available that has, in sum, more advantages than the inconvenience related to repurchasing the replacement. Obsolete refers to something that is already disused or discarded, or antiquated. Typically, obsolescence is preceded by a gradual decline in popularity, Wikipedia, 22 March, 2013, 5:15pm).
‘The photographic medium has been changing at an unprecedented pace in the last two decades. We now all have a camera in our pockets or there is one hovering over our heads ready to snap our image,’(Shore, Robert. Post Photography: The Unknown Image, Elephant Magazine, issue 13 –winter 2012/13. Page 66).
Snaith’s painting sneakily contemplates on this phenomenon and the lack of objective truth contained in photographic art of today.
Sweet Obsolete is a journey into a museum of lost toys and ideas. The mime sneaks up behind me and gently taps my shoulder as I stand in front of the self portrait work entitled Sweet Obsolescence. Using ink , Snaith has managed to capture her image in the reflection of a balloon floating in the centre of the page. At first glance it seems to be a reflection but on second look you question this and wonder is it perhaps her image is trapped inside the balloon? I turn around and see the mime smiling at me and shrugging. I smile back and reply with a shrug of my own.
The woman herself; Tai Snaith was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions for me over email.
Do you have an artistic ‘power animal’? If you were asked to choose one, what would it be and why?
-Tai: That’s an odd question. Um, Im kinda cross between a squirrel and a lion and a monkey. I hoarde and squirrel things away and never throw anything out, but I make work quickly and impulsively and without much fear I guess. I like taking risks too and playing with others/collaborating.
What are some of your favourite writers and how do they inspire your artwork?
– Tai: For some reason I am friends with many writers. Locally I love the poet Sean Whelan, non fiction writer Anna Krien and fiction writer Romy Ash. I also love international writers such as Junot Diaz and Ben Lerner- who just wrote a great book called ‘Leaving Atocha Station’- I love the way all of these writers can take you to another place and suspend disbelief so effortlessly.
Who are some artists that you admire and believe helped shape the kind of artist you wanted to become while a student at The Victorian College of the Arts?
– Tai: Louise Bourjeois, On Kawara, Renee Magritte, Jannis Kournellis, Frida Kahlo, Joseph Kosuth, and local artists Helen Johnson, Callum Morton, Kate Just, Elizabeth Gower, Rob Mc Haffie, Anastasia Klose, Ghostpatrol, amongst many others of course.
Have the artists you admire and feel most influence you, changed and evolved throughout your career?
– Tai: Yes. (I used to love Dali when I was at high school)
Does day –to- day life make it difficult to always feel compelled to start a project or simply create art? What are some things you do that help get you unstuck or propel you back from feeling uninspired or in a rut.
– Tai: It’s much harder with kids! Time is mainly my issue. But if I have a day off in the studio or alone, I often start by going op-shopping or wandering around art shops. I love tip shops. I also just like playing with paints and making collage to get me on a roll. I also like talking to a few certain people to get me inspired and listening to other people’s stories on things like This American Life.
You latest exhibition Sweet Obsolete, explored the concept of production, consumption and obsolescence. Do you believe our culture today glorifies easy come easy go to the point of madness?
– Tai: Yes. It’s more that we obsess over the ‘new’ whether it be an experience, object, technique, building, concept, smell, etc. It’s not very sustainable to be constantly making NEW things all the time and then throwing them away. I prefer to look at old things in a new way.
The giant clips and brightly coloured push pins reminded me of when I painted pictures in kindergarten. That nostalgic aura was emphasised by the mere way you had chosen to mount your works. Was that effect a conscience decision?
-Tai: Not so much channelling kindergarten, but I was trying to be more playful and conscious of trying to break up the ‘frame on the wall’ way of presenting works on paper. It’s so boring! I also wanted each work to feel more like an object, as the show was really about objects. Hence hand-painting the frames as well.
Do you have a process to your creative work? Does it involve reverent silence or loudly played music by your favourite band?
– Tai: I like either silence or listening to podcasts. Sometimes music, depends on my mood.
Does it concern you how other people read your work?
-Tai: Not really, unless they find it offensive or racist/sexist/misogynist etc. Which has only happened once or twice in the past.
Finally what is one of your favourite pieces of art advice from an artist?
Don’t listen to advice! Don’t expect to make any money.