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Knots: Jonny Briggs x Burgh House

Contemporary Interventions into an Historic House

Until 6 March 2022
  • Free Entry
    Opening Times: 10am - 4pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday

Burgh House is delighted to present Knots, an experimental site-specific exhibition of new work by young British artist, Jonny Briggs. Knots features multi-media interventions, interacting with the exterior and interior of Burgh House, encouraging visitors to reinterpret their surroundings and reconsider roles of familiar objects. Surreal, staged photographs and sculpture will be presented overtly and covertly in dialogue with the museum collection and located throughout the House and garden in a game of hide-and-seek.

Working collaboratively with a contemporary artist for the first time will see Burgh House’s Marie Louise von Motesiczky Gallery transformed into a dazzling cage-like playpen as Briggs attempts to deconstruct his past and reconstruct it - in the context of another home.  Reflecting not only on Briggs’s own familiar familial history within a pine forest in rural England, but also on the human history of Burgh House, this exhibition of contrasts and surprises will include limbs bursting through photographs, absurdly shaped shoes, animatronic sock puppets that speak to visitors, and masks that close around Briggs’s body, restricting his movement.

In generating new perspectives on Burgh House and its collection, the exhibition connects with Hampstead’s significant place within the developmental history of psychoanalysis and Surrealism, taking its title from psychiatrist and mental health campaigner, R.D. Laing’s 1970 book of collected poetry. Briggs states:

“My work looks at the constructed reality of the family through the constructed reality of photography. This exhibition attempts to make sense of a time when I was unable to connect with my father, while simultaneously discovering my queer sexuality and the social restrictions this came with. Now, my father has difficulty walking, and is restricted in his movement. The work is an opportunity to give a shape to nonsensical experience, double binds, and seeks to voice experiences once held silent.”

“I like how humour can question societal norms, helicopter above situations, and address difficult themes that may otherwise be too hard to talk about.”

A work commissioned by and created within Burgh House will be included in the exhibition and added to the Burgh House collection.

This exhibition has been funded by the Arts Council and was curated by Dr Nicola Baird.

About the Artist

Born in Berkshire in 1985, Jonny Briggs is a multidisciplinary artist best known for his idiosyncratic brand of highly autobiographical, self-psychoanalytical and yet universally relatable photography, whose arresting, hybridised, multi-media creations operate in the interstices between fact and fiction. Briggs’ work is reflective of both the artist’s preoccupation with his own family history and with the practice of psychoanalysis, facilitating the articulation of the once unspeakable. Intelligent, intuitive and ingeniously deceptive, much of Jonny’s work over the past 16 years has featured his parents in a variety of imaginative scenarios, their presence having much to do with the artist’s sustained interest in the credulous condition of childhood. Endeavouring through a series of reincarnations and reconfigurations, “to think outside the reality I was born and socialised into,” he attempts to animate an “unconditioned self.”  The dialectical relationship between self and other is clearly something which fascinates Briggs whose work turns compulsively on the paradox that self and other whilst seemingly insuperably separated are at the same time mere recto and verso of one another. Briggs’ work seems characterised by radical uncertainty and insecurity, uncertainty in particular concerning the distinctions between past and present, self and other, fiction and reality. His characters/protagonists then, neither quite projections of the self nor representations of family members, not quite now and not quite then inhabit, it seems, the ‘eternal interim’ between life and death. In the artist's words, in recent years “the physicality of the image has become more significant, through the production of photosculptures and photomontage. The gaze, the mouth, connection / disconnection, cutting and splitting have often surfaced in the work, as have photographs of photographs, featuring protruding body parts.” Briggs’ works seem imbued with a kind of cryptic potential, the accumulation of which as well as an undeniable emphasis on the fantastical combine to make viewing an intriguing and magical experience. 

Briggs studied Fine Art at Chelsea College (1st class) and the RCA (Distinction) in London, graduating in 2011. He was awarded the Conran Award for Fine Art and the Saatchi New Sensations prize in 2011 and Foam Talent 2014, in addition to being a Catlin Prize finalist in 2012 and a Saatchi Gallery UK/raine Finalist in 2014. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 he received Paul Huf nominations. Solo exhibitions of Briggs’ work have been held at Simon Oldfield Gallery, London, 2013; Julie Meneret, New York, 2014; Marie-Laure Fleisch, Rome & NContemporary, Milan, 2015 and 2021, and Photoforum Pasquart Photography Museum, Switzerland, 2017. His work has also been represented in group shows at Shanghai Centre of Photography in China; The Benaki Museum in Greece; Saatchi Gallery; 176 Zabludowicz Collection; Jerwood Space and the Photographers' Gallery in London. Commissions include Saatchi Gallery, Leica, Grain, Channel 4, The Financial Times (made at Freud Museum London in Hampstead) and Jerwood Visual Arts.


Special Events

An inclusive educational events programme consisting of artist/curator tours, talks and workshops will be held physically and online.