Published on May 3, 2013 | by Zoha Tapia0
Thatcheristic success for Briggs
It has been a double whammy for former Chelsea College of Art & Design student Jonny Briggs. Not only did Simon Oldfield Gallery host his first solo show about relationships between family, body and bloodlines, but he was invited to showcase his portrait of Margaret Thatcher at the Thatcheristic Exhibition at London’s Gallery Different.
ALN caught up with Briggs, who spoke about his journey from UAL to established artist.
How did it feel to be chosen as one of the 10 artists to exhibit their work on Thatcher?
I was surprised and intrigued! I’ve sometimes seen right wing politics as the critical Father, and often link it to my relationship with my own Father.
More than a politician, Thatcher was a human being, and like all of us she had insecurities. ‘The Iron Lady’ is infamously described as lacking in emotion, yet this is an image that’s a portal in to a more fragile side of her that was rarely seen, and one that we can all relate to, regardless of our political stance.
What is the idea behind your exhibition at Simon Oldfield?
I saw a lecture by Bernice Donzelman whilst at Chelsea which really inspired me then and to this day, which feels very relevant to Dummy; a house made from human cancer cells growing in the exhibition. I’ve been working on this piece for the past year, and a laboratory in North London has kindly devoted time, equipment and expertise to make the project happen.
A further link, is that towards the end of my Grandmother’s life, it became increasingly hard for her to clean and maintain her home. The walls becoming ever more yellow with cigarette stains, they became inescapably linked to her lungs. Whenever I would visit, it would be like walking in to her body, and a daunting reminder of its deterioration. The home and the body are intimately entwined and Ancestral Home explores and pushes perversions of them, and the links between.
What is the impact of Chelsea College of Art & Design on your life and career?
I’m really grateful for my time there. It involved intense experimentation and thought, and perspectives and comments bombarded from every angle and encouraged me to over-think the work.
The tutors were thought provoking, pulling the rug from under my feet and throwing spanners in the works and encouraging journeys of thought down pathways I hadn’t thought before. Above all I made close friends at Chelsea that I still see regularly and they have been invaluable in both my personal and artistic development.
Could you share some memorable experiences during your time at UAL?
I have many warm memories of my foundation tutor Max Mason – she really gave her all to the students.
My tutor Gil Addison had this knack of knowing the work before I did, and encouraging me to pursue this ambiguous thing I was getting at. I still read over her tutorial notes to this day.
Look out for the review of Jonny Briggs’ art work in ALN’s May issue.