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Portraitist of the London punk
The artist Jo Brocklehurst was best known for her powerful drawings of punks and the club culture of 1980s London. Alone as an artist, she succeeded in capturing that very special moment in the social history of the city' she said it was by chance that it happened, as many of the characters she drew lived in squats nearby her home and paraded down her street. Captivated by their beauty and form, she invited them in and started to draw.
The results were shown at several exhibitions in London at the Francis Kyle Gallery, including "The London Drawings" in 1981 and "London Take Two" the following year. It is the period that she is noted for and she made it
her own.
In Elizabeth Suter's drawing class at St Martin's School of Art in the early 1970s, Jo Brocklehurst was difficult to miss, a tall figure with long jet-black hair under a broad-brimmed hat pulled down low (even while drawing). The look was totally individual, other garments covering her completely in a kind of romantic fashion. When she raised her head to see the model, one caught aglimpse of her incredible beauty. At break-time, students would gather around to admire the drawings, although she wouldn't say much, seeming modest and shy. When she left the room, people would say, in a kind of whispered and admiring tone, "That is Jo Brocklehurst!"
She said she was born in London in 1941 (although it may have been a few years earlier) and was educated at Woolwich Polytechnic and St Martin's, which she entered on a scholarship at the exceptionally early age of 14. Her tutors were Freddie Gore, John Minton, Elizabeth Suter and Muriel Pemberton. Jo was also a gifted athlete, too, and was a member of the Highgate Harriers, but chose art over athletics.
After leaving college, she started with commercial art, particularly fashion illustration, before going on to explore her own projects. Beginning with an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1979, Jo Brocklehurst established a reputation in an unusually short span of time. She attracted significant attention with her contribution to the explosive and politically controversial "Women's Images of Men" at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1980. She had a strong affiliation with women artists and was admired by them unreservedly.
Brocklehurst was always drawing. She never minded being stuck on a bus for hours in traffic, as she always carried paper and pens. She drewplaces, situations, people and their faces, capturing movement and character with a very rapid line. She went out each day with the purpose of drawing, with a subject in mind. Recently she had enjoyed landscape, and every day, in all weathers, she would go out on Hamp-stead Heath. She was a city girl and thought of the heath as her countryside. She was still doing this very recently until the cold drove her inside. Her landscapes are incredibly atmospheric and surprisingly small in format compared with her famous London punks, which fill the large page with colour and line, making sensuous silhouettes of the body.