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Tai Snaith: Sweet Obsolete

Tai Snaith's crisp paintings show us that our old, overlooked cameras are worth hanging onto.
By Zac Millner-Cretney
March 19, 2013
By Zac Millner-Cretney
March 19, 2013

Do you remember the toys you played with when you were a kid? Maybe they were simple, simpler than kids' playthings seem now. They just don't make 'em like that anymore. Then again, if you're young enough, maybe they weren't so simple; my favourite was the GameBoy Pocket, which meant Pokemon Yellow and Super Mario Bros for hours. That model has been completely phased out now, but not before being supplanted by four successive versions. Think of all the thousands of broken, discarded, unused GameBoy Pockets out there, filling the dark underground stomach of a landfill somewhere.

Tai Snaith could have been digging through dumpsters to find source material for Sweet Obsolete, her exhibition that privileges useless objects. Inked and painted in the bold, clean colours of nostalgia, her work shows us a polaroid camera, a hatstand, a wooden boat, all shiny and new. Look, they've still got it! As beautiful as the day they were lovingly put together by factory workers in Taiwan, how could we  have tossed them aside so dismissively? GameBoy, forgive me, I never should have left you.

Sweet Obsolete is a good-looking show. The ink work is especially strong, crafted with exceptional precision, yet up close possessing the same tiny imperfections that ultimately endear our old stuff to us (no one else could smack my GameBoy in the just the right way to make it switch on). The simple style of the works is very designer-chic and nicely complements the plucked-from-memory feel of her lonely subjects. Do I anthropomorphise these objects too much? Tai Snaith even puts faces on some of them.

Though the show dips its toes tentatively into some interesting conceptual waters, it offers little more than pleasant aesthetics — a self-portrait in a reflection of a balloon inked in black and white, is a particularly striking piece — as blunt signposting stultifies the risk of intrigue. If we were in any doubt as to the meaning of the objects dotted around the room, Snaith has helpfully slapped the word “obsolete” across one of her paintings, just to make sure we get the message.

Constructed by a talented hand, but without the substance to truly carry a solo show, Sweet Obsolete will nevertheless encourage you to take better care of your toys.

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