‘Nobodies and Somebodies’: the unseen portraits of Jo Brocklehurst which provide such an intriguing glimpse into her life

Jo Brocklehurst

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.

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