18 Apr Feature: Jo Brocklehurst / BBC Culture
Disguised in a wig and sunglasses, the artist Jo Brocklehurst went undercover to draw some of the larger-than-life figures of London’s nightlife at fetish clubs and punk gigs. But her extraordinary body of work – including portraits of everyone from Boy George to Billy Idol – has remained largely unknown.
An exhibition of her work created from the 1960s up to her death in 2006, called Nobodies and Somebodies, may change that. The show reveals an unparalleled window into the subversive underbelly of punk, as well as the first connective sparks between this local subculture and the international fashion world.
“She was a true artist, the real deal, drawing every day of her life,” says Isabelle Bricknall, Brocklehurst’s close friend and co-curator of the exhibition. “The objective was never money. The art establishment at that time wouldn’t have touched punks with a ten-foot bargepole, but she saw something there. She was ahead of her time.”
A child prodigy, Brocklehurst was offered a scholarship to study at renowned Saint Martin’s School of Art at the tender age of 14. She graduated four years later, by which time the staid traditions of fashion illustration, mainly tasteful renditions of Parisian haute couture, were no longer exciting. Brocklehurst took her rigorous academic training and turned her attention to London’s seedy underworld, immersing herself in the nascent punk scene of the late 1960s and the fetish clubs where people were exercising a new-found sexual freedom.