Description & Technical information

Like many botanical artists, Brigid Edwards works very slowly. As she has stated, ‘A large painting (and I mean volume and painted area as opposed to large but unpainted surface) can take up to twelve weeks to complete.’ Edwards almost always paints her watercolours on smooth, prepared vellum. As she recounts of her working methods, ‘I get my vellum from William Cowley Parchment and Vellum Works who also mount and stretch the skins on board to my specific dimensions. A white gesso ground is applied which smoothes the surface but inevitably because it is a natural skin there remains an irregularity of texture and pigment. In the past I have made my own boards but it is very time-consuming and expensive if things go wrong…So far there have been no problems with splitting or cracking. I think I decided to “anchor” them because I found the wavy edges rather distracting…I use Winsor & Newton or Rowney & Schminke watercolours, depending on pigment. I choose vellum rather than paper because I have always found paper too absorbent and difficult to rectify. I use ophthalmic surgical blades to remove paint from vellum where necessary.’

The present sheet was drawn in 2016, and depicts two ridge gourds at the left and a single bitter gourd at the right. Resembling a cucumber or zucchini with ridges, the ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula) is found throughout Asia. When unripe, its fruit is cultivated and eaten as a vegetable, particularly in China, India, and Vietnam, while when fully matured it can be harvested, dried and made into natural cleaning sponges or body scrubs. The bitter gourd (Momordica charantia), more commonly known as a bitter melon, is a tropical and subtropical vine grown throughout Asia, Africa and the Caribbean for its edible fruit, as well as for medicinal purposes. Of the several varieties of bitter gourd that are known, the fruit depicted in this drawing appears to be an Indian cultivar. Cooked when it is green or beginning to turn yellow, the bitter gourd is used extensively in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent.

The collector Shirley Sherwood has recently noted of the artist that, ‘Brigid Edwards has already been recognized as a painter of the most potent images which have an arresting yet subtle impact.’ Similarly, in the catalogue of an exhibition of watercolours by Edwards at a London gallery, Ian Burton noted of her work that ‘The fine painting of the detail on the vellum is uncanny, but when these single objects are arranged and suspended in a contemplative space, they achieve their greatest power, and as a result of this creative act of attention, they have an almost religious intensity.’

Date:  2016
Period:  21st century
Origin:  London
Medium: Watercolour, over an underdrawing in pencil, on vellum
Dimensions: 38.1 x 30.5 cm (15 x 12 inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints