Also on display at the House of Illustration, at the opposite end of the artistic spectrum, is an exhibition dedicated to Jo Brocklehurst: ‘Nobodies and Somebodies’. This exhibition shows unseen portraits (many of which were thought lost) of some of Jo’s favourite subjects: cabaret artists, bohemians, new romantics, punks, drag queens and fetish fans – people who she encountered during the course of her everyday life, and on the club scene. Described as a “celebration of sub-culture” and co-curated by Isabelle Bricknall, Jo’s model and muse, I found the exhibition a compelling insight into 1970s-1990s London, Berlin and New York. These were Jo’s three favourite cities, and where she spent much of her time.
I particularly liked Jo’s drawings of members of the anarcho-punk group Puppy Collective who squatted just down the road from her in West Hampstead during the 1980s – from them, you get the sense that, as someone who for most of her life felt like an outsider, Jo had a real empathy with her subjects. That said, all of the portraits on display are striking in their rawness and their bold use of colour – you can only marvel at this enigmatic artist’s technique, and her ability to capture a particular moment in time.