Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
This exhibition offered a unique opportunity to see a diverse and inspiring selection of hand-woven tapestries from the worlds best weavers including figuartive, three-dimensional and more contemporary styles which I related to the most. There were twenty artworks by eighteen artists considered for the £8,000 prize which were all exhibited at Inverleith House Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh from 23 October to 12 December, 2021. Entries from Australia and Russia were included on the finalist list with other renowned weavers from Japan, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and the UK. Some weavers used the traditional methods and fibres and others used found materials and unorthodox applications of the “Gobelin technique”. The prize captured a snapshot of how this art form has developed today, with a range of contemporary narratives and themes with mixed techniques. There was mention of a record number of submissions from artists across the world including artists moving from different disciplines towards weaving as a medium for creating fine art. Given the pandemic year the artists who submitted their work capitalised upon political critique, personal reflection, and utilised tapestry as a means of therapeutic making. The 2021 Cordis Prize boasts the most eclectic mix of artists, themes, and techniques to date, and a broad reflection of the world of tapestry has been presented through the shortlist exhibition. https://theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2021/09/the-2021-cordis-prize-for-tapestry-shortlist-announced/
Anne Bjørn has created traditionally woven tapestries, but has always pushed the boundaries for what is possible within this specific field – in terms of both technique and material. Her woven tapestries have evolved into an open expression where the individual thread is visible and where the many layers and the shadows are used deliberately as a means of expression. These works may be experienced as mental spaces. https://annebjorn.dk/
Anne Bjørn stated “I use light as a tool to transform the textile from definite handmade craft into ambiguous space. By letting the tapestries cast a shadow, by doubling, reflecting, distorting and repeating the work, it becomes more a question of an actual evocation of the textile and the many different views contained in an image than a traditional artistic practise. I am preoccupied with the simple expression as a poetic force.” For Anne Bjørn the starting point is always textile but the creative process can vary dependent upon the narrative as she strives to create patterns which are transformed into elusive and changeable statements, of examining the options with thread in its purest form. This piece represented one of my favourite weavings within this exhibition given the artists relationship with thread alongside the use of light and shade within the multi-layered construction of material.
Anne Stabell noted that “Under the Surface is part of a project named Slowly Through the Woods. With these tapestries my intention is to bring the experience of being in the woods among everything that grows, into the gallery in a woven form. The designs are made by leaving parts of the warp unwoven, so that one can see through and between the threads, almost like in a wood with leaves, branches and the air between. The visible warp and the coloured weft are dyed with growths I have collected or grown in my Garden.” Under the Surface was woven using a shibori technique and as stated the wool was dyed with Parmelia saxatilis, which is commonly known as salted shield lichen and grown in Norway. The design itself evolved from imagery including photographs of roots which were combined and digitally manipulated. The use of materials including the natural dyes resulted in a beautifully luminosity and range of tones across the weave.
Louise Martin and Lifetime won the Cordis Prize 2021. Louise studied on the Isle of Man, and at Middlesex University, followed by the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. In 2002 she began working on the Unicorn project at Stirling Castle where she stayed for ten years. Since then she has travelled widely as a teacher and speaker and has enjoyed residencies in Mongolia, Iceland, Turkey and Finland. She now lives in Westray, Orkney and continues to offer workshop opportunities from a range of sites.
The work Lifetime was created from silk, linen, cotton and paper warp and weft. It references a daily life lived and is “informed by landscape and travel combined with a strong influence in technique, structure and form”. It was considered to be an extraordinary piece by a very gifted artist. When the judges came to the deliberation stages, they themselves who are both incredibly experienced and talented, tapestry artists were so impressed, both were looking at this and they were fascinated by the technique and how it was made. Louise Martin acknowledged that “It’s a fairly subtle piece, it has a lot of paradoxical qualities. So it’s very soft, it’s very fragile, but it’s very rigid, it’s very hard, and it’s very subtle. There are very tiny little incremental changes in it, and yet, it goes through a whole spectrum of shades and textures.” It was considered to be extraordinary with good reason given the complexity of weave construction and layering effects of stitch. It was therefore wonderful to see it in the flesh as it glowed in the sunlight, I could recognise just what a beautiful piece it is as multi-directional areas of weave and stitch reflected the light so well. Although a reasonably flat surface it presented as having multiple surfaces and dimensions given the scale of concentric areas of weave with the use of thread with stitch repeated throughout the tapestry weaving. http://thetapestryprize.org/project/2021cordisprize/
Louise Martin noted that “Broad areas of bold colour are woven in a dance of warp and weft, pass by pass. The language of compound colour, textural and structural qualities of yarn are given full rein, choices become almost unlimited. Here woven in large areas with subtle shifts of colour and tone there is new hum and complexity to the surface which on closer view reveals a multi-faceted light, a dialogue of warp and weft at times closely entwined, at others running in counter wise layers.”
Louise Martin added that “I am delighted to see my work in Inverleith House. The natural daylight of the Gallery breathes and showcases the subtleties of the woven structure beautifully. My work often begins with a reaction to landscapes around the world. This piece is more than biographical, it is a landscape of the heart, a piece I was compelled to make with a technique I have been developing for the last decade.” “Woven without shed and on a loom warped to the shape of the piece, freed from the usual grid of perpendicular warp and weft, edges take on a freedom of line. Warp no longer flows top to bottom but instead there is a myriad of changing, ever crossing angles. Warp becomes a cluster of yarns of varied weight, colour, lustre, interlocked to change mid loom. Broad areas of bold colour are woven in a dance of warp and weft, pass by pass. The direction of weave on an already tilting warp, aligns and realigns constantly.” As noted by the judging panel for the Cordis prize 2021 they felt that this newly created technique by Louise Martin extended the qualities of traditional tapestry, to move the medium beyond where it currently is to introduce new possibilities with the use of colour, texture, and structure through weave. Louise Martin has created a new dialogue with warp and weft which expands how tapestry weaving can be undertaken in the future.
Elaine Wilson only started making this tapestry in April 2020 during the Covid lockdown, when she was furloughed for three months from her job as an apprentice weaver at the Dovecot Studios. The image that she chose to interpret for the design was from one of her own paintings. Elaine Wilson stated that “in my painting practice there is a frantic energy and I like to throw and pour paint, creating drips and pools of colour. I thought it would be interesting to try and express these quite immediate marks in the much slower and considered medium of tapestry weaving by using texture and double weave.” As Elaine Wilson was almost finished her apprenticeship she wished to maintain her learning throughout lockdown and to test herself out with the studio environment. With having no loom and materials at home this weaver ordered an industrial clothes rail online to warp up and use as a loom, as well as wool, a winder, some bobbins, pegs and needles. This creative process helped to focus her continuing development in tapestry weaving, to promote independent work as part of her studio practice. Such techniques, process, and imagery has inspired me to continue to develop my own tapestry weaving in many different ways.
Martin Jørgensen noted “my tapestries are flat woven, the simplest possible weaving technique. The materials are ramie and linen yarns specially developed and manufactured in Kyoto, Japan. The yarns are hard spun which gives a firm woven surface that radiates the colours clearly. For each woven image the virgin white yarns are dyed in numerous colours and shades to reach the colour spectrum of the sketch. The surface of the tapestries arrives at a structure that catches light and shadow, making the colours appear deep and intense. The sketches emerge out of photos which are reworked in an experimental computer process.” A number of these experiments are distilled into a final sketch, which is then transformed to textile. The horizontal loom gives the opportunity to work at a high level of detail, with precise colour choices and a tactile presence. https://www.martinnannestad.dk/
Bright Red is a visual story without a beginning or an end, it is an experiment with depths and diverse colour symphonies within one piece. It is built up by multiple rhythms of shapes and colour. Martin Jørgensen stated that “the intention was to create a composition on the verge of tilting, challenging the balance of the image. The weaving technique creates a tactility that captures the light and creates an abundance of small shadows in the surface. The result is an enhanced glow and a sense of depth. From a distance, the tapestry looks virtually three-dimensional.” Bright Red was beautifully constructed with an eye for detail and colour use which helped me to revisit my use of imagery through experimental computer processes.
Fiona Rutherford noted that she often weaves in strips that bring together seemingly unconnected elements to capture moods and connections to create a visual dialogue. The edges tapering or uneven. It is the edge or fragment of something else. Selvedges and stitching make reference to the human history held in cloth. “I am fascinated by the intimacy between weaving and storytelling.” Fiona Rutherford acknowledged that “The title of this piece comes from the last line of the poem New Era, written in the early days of lockdown by Jackie Kay. The sense of separation from all you know and love immediately resonated with me. I wove the tapestries over the course of a year from 2020 to 2021, in direct response to the isolation imposed by the worldwide pandemic. They are a visual diary of chaos contained.” I was immediately drawn to the graphic effects of the mark making and the overall narrative of this tapestry weaving. Another flawlessly constructed tapestry weaving made through significant understanding and knowledge of technique and related applied skill. The merging and blending of some of the colour palette was great to see. http://thetapestryprize.org/project/2021-cordis-prize/