Artist Jackie Edwards was born in Croydon to Irish parents and has lived in County Wexford most of her life. She has painted since childhood, studied at Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design and has exhibited since 1989. Her work has been shown in Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and London and can be found in collections worldwide, including the Irish state collection (OPW). In 2015, Jackie received both the Drawing Prize and the Portraiture Prize at the Royal Ulster Academy show, Belfast and was a finalist in her heat in ‘Sky Portrait Artist of the Year’ in 2018.
Edwards’ paintings are intensely detailed figurative works where the realism and drama is heightened and brought sharply into focus. Working on linen or prepared panel, the mesmerising effects are achieved through a painstaking technique of layered strokes of coloured glazes over monochrome underpainting (grisaille) to create a vibrant surface, a mixture of oil and egg tempera, in a method developed by early renaissance masters in the 15th century. However, while these techniques were developed to portray saints and princes, Jackie Edwards generally deploys them in bringing to life people on the margins.
Indeed, the figures in Edwards’ paintings are more likely to be paupers than princes, with bikers, down-and-outs, punks and poets often the subjects she chooses to paint. She likes to paint people in costume and faces of character and thus greatly enjoyed the award of an artists’ residency to work in Mexico in 2017. In recent times, Edwards has done occasional work for the series, ’Vikings’, where she has had the opportunity to work on portraits of some of the cast and the colourful extras for the popular TV show. Not content with having convincingly achieved every hair, wrinkle and pore, skin overlaid with tattoos, ageing skin with blemishes, thread veins and stubble, Edwards now introduces themes of conflict, anguish, movement and fantasy into the paintings. A dedicated and undaunted artist, she is constantly challenging herself to find novel and original ways to convey these new and difficult elements from her imagination. Some of the paintings tell a story or carry a strong idea or feeling beyond the impressively realistic depictions which first draw the viewer to them. But alongside the darker emotions, there is also humour to be found and perhaps even some of that charming cockney cheek.