Jackie Edwards’ latest exhibition celebrates the life and work of Frida Kahlo. Her portraits echo their Kahlo counterparts creating a fusion of old and new using the interplay between light and shadow to create dramatic pieces …
How did you become interested in Frida Kahlo?
Four years ago, I spent a month in an art residency in Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, Mexico, where no one can miss Frida Kahlo’s [1907 – 1954] image, which is absolutely everywhere. At the time, I was absorbing and documenting just about everything that I could, sketching and painting some local people. It was a fantastic experience. Every time I stepped outside the door in Lake Chapala I felt like I was in paradise! The colours, sounds, weather, beautiful people, buildings, were all an explosion of inspiration. I was housed in a building with a sunroof, where, for the first time in my life I experienced hummingbirds … little did I know that they would be inspiration for the title of my solo show at Gormleys – “To Catch A Hummingbird”.
I love Kahlo’s paintings, she was a revolutionary figure, and put so much feeling into her paintings. I feel a connection to this artist, as she suffered so much. Like her, I also have scoliosis and I can really identify with much of what she tries to convey with her work. Kahlo was mainly known for her portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artefacts of Mexico. I wanted to create an authentic portrayal of Frida and her self-portraits, and to pay homage to her. In this exhibition I want to immerse the viewer in Kahlo’s world, but in a style that is very much my own, inspired and helped by my model and muse Lucrezia [pictured below].
What do you like most about portraiture?
I have been painting portraits since a very young age, having fallen naturally into this genre. I feel I can express my own self through figurative work and convey through the work something about my own life as well as giving out hopefully strong images of the people I paint, who have attracted me to them in the first place. Actually, I have been known to chase a person down a street to ask them to pose if they stand out to me … such is my desire to paint that person!
Tell us about this current series of portraits?
When I was back in Ireland after Mexico, I was asked to participate in another residency, this time in St Stephen’s Green where I met my model, Lucrezia, from Ferrara in Italy. She was studying languages at the time. I thought she might work well for ideas I had in mind for a painting of Kahlo. I was not disappointed – Lucrezia is a natural and I was impressed by her own input. Coincidentally, I was astounded to discover Lucrezia has a tattoo with the Frida Kahlo slogan; “I have a strong urge to fly.” It all seemed to slot together.
When I presented the first piece to Gormleys, they commissioned a series of paintings. So, with this, I hightailed it off to Ferrara, with a very large, pink suitcase full of Frida-type accessories, and that is where Lucrezia and I worked on all the poses for this exhibition. All of the paintings are inspired by Frida’s own self-portraits or images taken of Frida herself. When I say all the poses, all except one. I was to return to Ferrara for the last piece, and then Covid hit us just at the same time that I was to travel. Instead, I sent Lucrezia an image of Kahlo that was my inspiration. She posed with her own props holding her pet cat – I thought it was adorable, and this became our “lockdown piece” entitled “Amo mi Casa Azul” [“I Love my Blue House”]. Kahlo’s house in Mexico City is blue, which is now a museum.
Where and how do you work?
I am a studio artist – I paint most days and put in a full day’s work as I paint with great detail. I work in a place close to where I live in Rosslare. When I require people to pose for sittings, I use another studio I love in Arthurstown, Co Wexford. It is a farm outbuilding with very good light from skylights and plenty of room. Usually I will ask a person to pose for drawings and a photoshoot. I feel that artists’ models should get more recognition – where would we be without them? They are an integral part of the pieces that are painted.
Need to Know: Jackie Edwards’ “To Catch A Hummingbird” exhibition is on display at Gormleys Fine Art, 27 Frederick Street South, Dublin 2, until August 15; www.gormleys.ie.
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