Jo Brocklehurst

Portraitist of the London punk


Jo Brocklehurst, artist: born London 6 August 1941; died London c29 January 2006.

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 a glimpse 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 drew places, 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 Hampstead 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.

Her output of work was vast, with shows in Germany, New York, Amsterdam and London. Experimenting with colour and the body in movement, social environment, real and theatrical situations, the drawings are always powerful. Her drawing style was original, strong and in your face. Take it or leave it, there it is. I think what it is is gutsy but, as with all good drawing, with a feeling of a different reality. That is what draws one in. I admired her commitment and discipline to draw every day, to keep the flow and quality of line - difficult to maintain but, nevertheless, she did it.

It was because of this kind of attitude and passion that, a decade ago, I asked her to teach our students at Central Saint Martins and she became a Visiting Lecturer in the School of Fashion. She was completely generous and encouraging as a teacher, passing on a unique experience that will live on through her students, I hope. Jo Brocklehurst was a tough taskmaster and I would often have to warn the models of her expectations. We lost a few, but all said afterwards they were glad to have had the experience and the results that had come out of it.

She had boys in dresses and feathered masks or not very much at all. The girls worked just as hard playing out fantasies for all to draw. She taught the students the traditions of life drawing, imparting her knowledge from what she had been taught herself, but allowed them to be inventive and original, not imposing her own style.

I often thought she lived in a kind of wonderment of the world, in another dimension - it was natural for her and we all looked on slightly stunned and just going along for the ride. I sometimes realised how lucky I was to be caught up in her spell. Her recent work on Through the Looking Glass came out of her wanting to return to her English roots after a period in New York.

What better way to pass an afternoon than in her studio installation of the Drawing Room, sipping tea from bone china and surrounded by walls dripping with her take on Alice, the White Rabbit and the Red Queen? Great fun.

Howard Tangye

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker