Jo Young is a close friend and a talented artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Her main area of interest is fashion illustration, but her work is multi faceted, using a variety of media and ranging from intimate graphic drawings to elaborate canvas pieces and sequined wall hangings – it crosses easily into the fine art arena. Her oeuvre and obsession is the female form, Young’s work is imbued with an unabashed and lascivious sexuality, a wholly female perspective of desire and pleasure, which makes it the perfect vehicle for fashion graphics, a market which largely assumes a female target audience. There is a natural and narcissistic eroticism displayed by the titular forms, portrayed by their casual poses and impassive, ambivalent expressions. It’s as if the subjects are admiring their bodies in a mirror or entertaining a lover and the viewer has intruded on the scene but isn’t necessarily unwelcome. Film theorist and philosopher Laura Mulvey in her essay ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ discusses the male gaze and the feminist implications of voyeuristic cinema (which can also be applied to art). Mulvey argues that erotic images force the viewer to assume a male role, but in Young’s work the aspect of scopophilia is reflected and challenged by the dominance of her protagonists and a bisexual or heterogeneous viewer is assumed, whether viewed by men or women the images appeal because they encourage both titillation and identification.
Young’s drawings are influenced by Aubrey Beardsley’s art nouveau illustrations and her heroines have the serene features of pre-raphaelite models. She has explored themes such as camouflage, identity and animal natures (exploring a range of textures and patterns); luxe imagery, exploring the use of light and shadow within metallic and gilded images and the interplay of colour and luminosity; and sexuality, exploring ways of expressing sapphic desire in a realistic and subtle way and consensual BDSM – an interesting take on our theme, people who willingly accept restriction and gain pleasure from relinquishing control.