Alcock, Pearl

Pearl Alcock moved to London from Jamaica in the 1950’s, abandoning her marriage in Jamaica. First finding work as a maid, by the 1970s she had opened a dress shop in Brixton, London and later ran a cafe and an illegal shebeen (a place where alcoholic drinks were sold without a license), popular with the local gay community.

Pearl only began paining in the 1980’s when aged in her 50’s and carried on right up to her death in 2006. Following the 1985 Brixton uprising both her shop and bar failed and she found herself on the dole and unable to afford a birthday card for a friend so she drew one. Alcock described this realization of her knack for drawing: “I went mad scribbling on anything I laid my hands on,” she explains, “friends admired what I had done and began to bring me materials to use, that is how I started.”

Pearl’s paintings fit into three categories: narrative portraits, mostly without titles, although she conjures some up on the spot – ‘The Africans’, ‘Woman and T’ief’, ‘Mermaid’ and ‘Merman’; flowers and abstracts, which create repeated patterns and reveal a tremendous intuitive sense of design. These are easily her most ‘sophisticated’ works in conventional terms. Birds regularly visit her visions, yellow canaries with puffed-up breasts based, elongated blue birds.

Monika Kinley, one of the country’s leading advocates of Outsider Art, describes her as a visual poet. In 2005 her work was included in Tate Britain’s first exhibition of art shown under the term Outsider Art.

From:; and: Sue Steward, Outsider dealing, in: The Observer, 29 Oct 2000.

Pearl Alcock
1934 Jamaica - 2006 London, UK