Cordis Prize 2016

The new Cordis Prize for tapestry, the only award of its kind in the UK,  came home in its second year.  From about 100 entries, and a short list that included artists from Japan, Denmark, Belgium and Brazil, the Scottish weaver and Edinburgh College of Art teacher Susan Mowatt won the £5,000 prize for her work, Black/time/lines/white/time/lines.

Cordis prize tapestry Edinburgh College of Art

Cordis Prize winner, Black/time/lines/white/time/lines by Susan Mowatt

The lines of weaving seemed to cascade down the two parts of the work like dripping liquids or an electronic shower of colours.

“The idea was being about spending time with the actual material, when the whole world seems to be moving away from actual tangible stuff and into screen activity,” Mowatt said.  “I started weaving lines and then unweaving them, not even making a product at the end of it.

“I just had lots of lines, started playing around with them, and this is what I came up with after a few years.  It’s about time, spending time, and using an ancient but very very simple process.”

Mowatt lives in Dunbar in East Lothian.  The work, priced at £12,000, is still unsold.

Cordis Prize:  Miranda Harvey and Susan Mowatt

Cordis Prize: Miranda Harvey and Susan Mowatt

The prize founder, Miranda Harvey, celebrated an illustrious gathering of weavers, friends, and the great and good at the Scottish National Gallery, catered by the Scottish Cafe, which is hosting a matching exhibition of small pieces by amateur weavers.

“This was a tough job, back in October, looking at 100 images of tapestries, and whittling them down to the seven you can’t live without,” she said.     Artist Alison Watt, preparing for her new show in London next month, was among the judges.

“Edinburgh is really special for tapestry.   It’s my favourite art form, and Edinburgh is probably the best place in the world to live if that’s what you like,” Harvey added, citing the Dovecot Studios and the work of Edinburgh College of Art.

The Cordis Prize works are on show as part of the Visual Art Scotland exhibition Converge, which Duncan MacMillan gave a glowing review in The Scotsman, though at the time mistakenly calling the winner as Miraka Szaraz’ Heaven and earth, which occupies an imposing position near the door.

Cordis Prize Edinburgh tapestry

Heaven and earth

Justine Randall’s Wiltshire Landscape was a personal favourite, perhaps because Wiltshire is a personal favourite.   In an ambitious four part piece,  she took photographs of the landscape and vegetation through four seasons and picked out 60 colours to represent the changing shades; they are seen here going from spring, to summer, autumn, and winter.


Cordis Prize tapestry Edinburgh

Wiltshire Landscape, by Justine Randall; spring, summer, autumn, and winter, with a suspicious character to the right.

Harvey writes tellingly in the exhibition guide about our instinctive understanding of woven cloth; because we wear it, and decorate our homes with it.   “A tapestry is an object as well as an image,” she rights, one with depth, weight, and indescribable “quiddity”.

Misao Watanabe’s Happiness 1 earned fans on the night for its feast of bright yellow colour, while Gudrun Pagter’s work also drew favourable attention from the judges.  Elke Hülse’s piece, Era Uma Vez, incorporating three small photographic scenes,  against a silhouette of two boys fishing,  from around her home in Santa Caterina, Brazil, was deeply intriguing.   In part for its price, as some lucky punter had snapped it up for £850; compared to the other pieces in the room, it appeared to be missing an ‘0’.

Cordis Prize tapestry Edinburgh

Elke Hulse’s Era Uma Vez