Soil Culture Residencies

Jonny Briggs

at White Moose Gallery, Barnstaple

Jonny Briggs studied at Chelsea College of Art and Royal College of Art. He is a London based multi-disciplinary artist whose work explores the constructed reality of the family in conjunction with the artifice of lens-based media. Often involving staged installations, the cartoonesque and the performative, his work creates jarring situations between adult/child, self/other, nature/culture and desire/disgust.

The brief for the Soil Culture residency at White Moose was to engage and work with Barnstaple residents in the gallery vicinity to explore the universal importance of soil. Jonny was selected for his proposal to work with the local community to create a scene for a photograph made out of local soil, which connected with his ongoing interest in the entwining of desire and disgust. For Jonny soil both appeals and repulses. He is at once repelled by the montaging of decomposed plants, animals and filth, and yet drawn to the use of it to fertilise new growth.


Jonny Briggs in residence at White Moose


Working out of the Penrose Almshouses allotments in Litchdon Street, Barnstaple, Jonny created a long table feast, reminiscent of the Last Supper, with billowing bowls of fruit, vegetables and voluptuous desserts within an opulent setting with curtains and candelabras but made entirely from local excrement. Taking ‘soil’ as both a noun and a verb, the work alludes to universal childhood memories of playing in soil and the contrast between that and the presentation of pristine flowers, fruits and vegetable in domestic interiors; devoid of their roots, cleaned of soil and detached from the earth from which they came. During Jonny’s residency at White Moose he also delivered three interactive artist talks, two at the local Further Education College, Petroc College, and one for the local community.

Presented as a photograph, the finished work here in this exhibition, ‘When your words came, I ate them’, reminds us that what we put in to the soil, shapes what we grow from it, which in turn informs what we eat, which in turn shapes what we are. It explores how soil, ‘the skin of the Earth’, is a transition between life and death and acts as a montage of decomposition and the foundation from which new life emerges.

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