Solihull Gallery
East Midlands

Bright, airy and spacious, Solihull Gallery is a pleasant enough ‘white cube’ space which provides an adequate albeit commercial home for the exhibition ‘Close Encounters of a Frillip Moolog Kind.’ Kristy E Smith exhibits her weird and wonderful creations in spaced out portions of the room and the majority are suspended from wire, floating against the white walls. The exhibition explores the notion of ‘Frillip Moolog,’ a term Smith has assigned to the ‘beings’ which ‘encapsulate the excitement and curiosity of a child when experiencing and interacting with an object for the first time.’ Her use of familiar domestic objects which are sometimes tricky to spot and at times glaringly obvious, transport the viewer back to a ‘place’ they had misplaced or forgotten.

The ‘beings,’ are vulgar in parts, achingly kitsch and verging on naff but this only adds to their charm. Using household items such as vacuum brushes, table legs, pet toys alongside slightly more obscure materials such as salvaged galvanised zinc, ‘plastic bear paws and grave flower holders; Smith creates a hopelessly nostalgic and incredibly odd army of objects which she personifies fondly using short blurbs. It is these short excerpts which really sold the show for me.

Each piece has a name and a personality. e.g. ‘If Stan could talk he’d tell you of his love of flying model aeroplanes and that he is a well known midlands radio ham,’ Stan is an obnoxious shade of orange and royal blue, reminiscent of a model spaceship from an outdated 1950’s science fiction film. His body is made from blue aluminium which was once the top of a down pipe from a Birmingham bus depot. Smith reminisces about her grandfather who was a dairy farmer and the resemblance this object has to a churner which towered over her as a child.

She distorts size very cleverly throughout the exhibition also creating a ‘being’ aptly named ‘tall legs.’ A quilted hinged box perched on four very tall and polished mahogany legs. Reminiscent of an excerpt from Alice in Wonderland; Smith took inspiration from revisiting a foot stool that had took pride of place in her mothers’ house. Smith used to lie underneath it in awe of the intricate fabric on the underside. On seeing it again she was surprised by how low the seat had actually been in comparison to her memories.

Each piece is so relatable; she involves the viewer by manipulating the ambiguous nature of textiles and mundane objects to create something hauntingly familiar yet bizarre and unexpected.

With ‘Hyacinth’ who is proudly mounted on a plinth, she creates a very kitsch and flamboyant creature from a beautiful vintage Carrs biscuit tin. Naturally this one was my favourite; my own obsession with nostalgic objects may have clouded my judgement on how clever Smith had been in the making of this particular being. However I noticed this was the only piece which was not for sale. ‘Hyacinth’ has garish red cabriole legs and a brazen plumage in the same shade. You may lift the lid (and you will touch and prod every piece, they have a recurrent tactile quality) to find an opulent quilting within which has been dented in the centre giving the impression that something has been sitting down inside it. On the under side she has used faux grass, I loved the juxtaposition of the decadence and luxury of the feathers and quilting against the harsh and cheap ‘astro turf,’ on its belly. Smith writes on this blurb that the grass always reminded her of butchers windows, it is wonderfully ironic to stick this to, ‘a biscuit tin which had been at the centre during table conversations for years.’

I strike up a conversation with the gallery attendant suitably intrigued about Kristy E Smith and her involvement with the installation of the show, I was pleased but unsurprised to hear that she had been very hands on, staying with the technician to curate the exhibition in her vision.

I think the personal element in her work is a large part of its success, the snippets from her family life display a warm and loving relationship which transport you back to your fondest and most random childhood memories. Her dedication to finding the perfect piece of fabric to emulate this is apparent in her work and it is clear that she is extremely driven by her materials. It is obvious that she has been increasingly fond of each and every creation as they are almost small parts of her life. She has taken defunct materials and objects which hold such nostalgia and made them barely recognisable.

The pieces are so reminiscent of modernistic architecture that you could be forgiven at first glance, in believing that you were in a very expensive contemporary furniture shop. They have become new exciting objects, whilst holding onto a delightful point in history. This is the essence of ‘Frillip Moolog,’ a concept which I have always been interested in but never found an appropriate term for. I found myself catapulted backwards remembering a button tin and, green ceramic bathroom fittings.

On leaving the exhibition I began to think back to site specificity, I wonder if the feeling could be greater in a different environment. I almost wanted to see the ‘beings’ in a faux living room. The objects obscurities would look fantastic against paisley wallpaper or next to a black and white television. I wonder if this has been considered, if the artist thought that placing it in a room with other ordinary and familiar objects would reduce their personalities. I don’t feel that the starkly familiar white walls did the pieces justice, besides highlighting their intense colours. I wondered if placing them in a room which evoked nostalgia would take something away from the pieces or if it would be a fantastic juxtaposition to see the new and twisted against the old original. However it could have been Smiths intention all along to utilize an environment which is used so classically to display, perhaps this way we can only question the parts she intended us to.

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