The pull of the past is nothing new for Melbourne artist, illustrator and children’s book author Tai Snaith. Her playful gouache and watercolour paintings and various drawn forms have long existed amid the throes of memory and nostalgia, as if lateral throwbacks to distant objects, experiences and childhood states.

Her 2012 collaboration with Kate Tucker saw her imbue Tucker’s abstract, geometric forms with a textual, illustrative bent, while her 2011 exhibition The best things in life aren’t things saw her construct paintings from objects and scenes depicted in her favourite writers’ personal, autobiographical accounts.

Snaith’s new exhibition of paintings and sculptures at Helen Gory Galerie seems to approach the notion of the nostalgic object with somewhat more of a critical eye. Dubbed Sweet Obsolete, the show doesn’t merely venerate the fetishised toy, collectable or curio, but seems to question the endless cycle of production, consumption and obsolescence.

The paintings are simple, colour-drenched and playful in form, as is often Snaith’s want, but there’s a particular sense of restraint to these works. Painted as still lifes, these supposedly obsolete objects (a Polaroid camera, a family heirloom toy sailboat, a wooden bead and wire toy) are presented as if noble artefacts; reactions against the ever-growing mountain of consumerist and virtual flotsam and jetsam that crowds both our lives.

Indeed, Snaith seems to propose a position for the toy or the object that transcends the fleeting. If we acquire with the intention to use, abuse and discard then we merely play into the cycle. But if collected, bestowed and cherished, our objects can come to hold a very different kind of value.

Tai Snaith’s Sweet Obsolete opens this Saturday March 16 at Helen Gory Galerie in Prahran, 2pm–4pm, and shows until April 13.