Wash your mouth out with soap

Jonny Briggs - Monstrare

“Wash your mouth out with soap!” my mother would exclaim.

I remember irresistible mud pies as a child, of voluptuously slopped soil, clad upon and between sticky fingers like chocolate in a fascinating entwine of desire and disgust. I desired what disgusted me, and was disgusted at my own desire. Outside the immaculate interior home, I indulged in my secret lust for filth. In free pursuit of my desire to touch the untouchable – the dirty – I transgressed my way to shameful freedom; plunging my fingers, fists and arms into troughs of cold, visceral gloop; at once appealed and appalled. I remain flirtatiously enticed by the word ‘soil’; both noun and verb.

Transitioning from the natural outdoors to the interior family home I’d encounter bunches of flowers confined within clean-cut vases; edited of their roots; a denial of the dirt they stemmed from, and the dirt to which they shall return. The flowers themselves the sexual organs of the plants; yet the words for our own sexual organs branded ‘filthy’, ‘dirty’, and unspeakable. I’d gaze upon the wallpaper-clad walls in the interior version of the exterior world; natural motifs, repeated to form cage-like patterns; the wild, controlled. Yet nature is, in its nature, uncontrollable.

Here’s to unearthing the hidden; to speaking the unspeakable; to giving the muted a voice. Here’s to flipping our comfortable understandings on their head; to questioning conditioned beliefs, to the hidden beauty of where we’ve come from; here’s to our mothers.


Jonny Briggs - Peephole (mouth hidden within woodland scene)

Jonny Briggs - Pierced Edges; Organs

Jonny Briggs - Supernatural; Envisionaries


Part of The Learned Pig’s Clean Unclean editorial season, March-May 2015.

Image credits (top to bottom):
Jonny Briggs, Monstrare, 2013
Jonny Briggs, Envisionaries no.11, 2013
Jonny Briggs, Super Natural, 2012
Jonny Briggs, Pierced edges, 2014
Jonny Briggs, Organs, 2015


The Learned Pig

Jonny Briggs

Jonny has worked as a multi-disciplinary artist, exploring the constructed reality of the family in conjunction with the artifice of lens-based media. In role reversals of the family photograph, Briggs regularly turns his lens upon his parents and childhood family home, reconstructing the past in an attempt to think outside of the reality he was socialised into. Although easily assumed to be photoshopped or faked, upon closer inspection the images are often realised to be more real than first expected. Involving staged installations, the cartoonesque and the performative, polarities are blurred to form jarring situations between adult/child, parent/offspring, self/other, nature/culture and desire/disgust. Jonny studied at Chelsea College of Art and Royal College of Art. Awards include a 2014 Paul Huf nomination (Brett Rogers), Foam Talent 2014, the 2011 Conran Award for Fine Art, a Lumi Honorary Art Award (2011), Saatchi New Sensations 2011 Winner, The Catlin Prize finalist 2012, and a NESTA Creative Sparks Award. Exhibitions include Saatchi Gallery,176 Zabludowicz Collection, Jerwood Space, Camden Arts Centre, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Photographers' Gallery, L'Atelier Néerlandais in Paris, The Marta Herford Museum; Germany, East Wing Gallery; Dubai, Galerie Marie-Laure Fleisch; Rome, Julie Meneret; New York, Simon Oldfield Gallery, and FaMa Gallery in Verona.