2023 Brief

Modern Mystic Arts and the Power of Colour

Brief Context

Uncertainty and the unknown fuel our ongoing interest in spirituality. The climate crisis, war, economic uncertainty and the pandemic have many turning to spiritual practice for solace. Our almost universal sociological need for deeper meaning has created an increasing number of outlets, each with its own visual and textural language. A rubbery yoga mat, a set of intricate carved and painted rosary beads, the rich velvet tablecloth of a tarot reading, the gold lustre of a Sikh temple, and the coarse wood sculptures of the pagan faith. Colours contain different meanings in different beliefs and practices and have sacred significance to followers and practitioners. In this time of uncertainty, this brief asks you to interrogate the physical and visual language of spirituality through your embroidery practice.

In 2023 the Hand & Lock Prize wants you to look to consider belief, spirituality and the mystic arts to revisit your elemental enduring curiosity.

Ask yourself if embroidery is a form of meditation? Interrogate your own experiences as an embroiderer paying attention to the mental, physical, psychological and spiritual state you enter as you create. Away from your own practice, question cultural beliefs and meditate on the role of textiles and embroidery in common rituals. Consider the emotional and symbolic power of colour and imagine your own emotionally and spiritually charged colour and material combinations. Ask yourself, why does spirituality still hold so much power in the age of science?

The Brief

In recent decades the world of science and the world of spirituality have collided. For many, personal beliefs and scientific truths often hold equal importance. History shows us that after times of sacrifice and loss, communities seek comfort in the mystic arts. After the trauma of the American Civil War, spirituality and an interest in the afterlife became a mainstream practice for widows and bereaved families. From seances in Victorian living rooms to pilgrimages to Mecca, spiritual hunger can be satisfied by belief in another realm. The 2023 brief asks you to give physical form to the intangible universe, we want you to interrogate spirituality, rituals, and ceremonies thinking about the textiles involved. Consider the formation of these pieces and the many hands working through the repetitive stitch (in an almost meditative state) to bring them to life. Familiarise yourself with the history of artistic practice and spirituality and explore the work of artists such as Madge Gill, who created mediumistic textile arts. Gill claimed to be guided by a spirit, ‘Myrninerest’ (my inner rest) and her pieces have an otherworldly quality that provokes questions about reality. Also, pay close attention to the colours used in spiritual and ritualistic textiles. What are the cultural meanings and how do those meanings shift when cultures clash? In Buddhism, meditating on the colour yellow transforms inner pride into wisdom. However, in the Christian faith yellow is associated with Judas Iscariot and has become linked with betrayal, envy, jealousy and greed. Play with contradictions and semiotics and weave new meanings into your creation. Consider both the light and dark aspects of the mystic arts.

In Fashion at The Edge, Caroline Evans asks that we recognise that fashion and textiles are perishable and therefore remind us of our fragile and finite lifespans. The Memento Mori present in art and fashion is also there in many spiritual rituals. In your work try to speak to beauty and decay, life and death, light and darkness. Finally, contemplate the performative role of your creation. Invent your rituals and consider how the item engages with the physical and spiritual realm. Think about combining the ritual of making with the performance of using. Also, imagine the future, the metaverse, augmented reality, and cryptocurrencies and consider how evolving technologies might play a part in the next era of spirituality. Your work should be in conscious dialogue with current consumer trends. The international textile trade show Premiere Vision has predicted a growing emphasis on the binary concepts of nature and technology, natural and artificial, the real and the virtual. While View 2023 (Issue 137), Forward Matter, discusses the importance of digital art, metaverse worlds and ‘digital dreamscapes’. Alongside how restorative connections with nature developed during the pandemic act in collaboration with science and technology to form new expressions – contemplative and healing, magical and mystic, surreal and dreamlike but overall reviving and energising with ‘emotionally charged colour’. Above all, embed spiritual meaning into your work, and create something that vibrates with mystic power and evokes an emotional response in the viewer. Create your own mythic and mysterious universe and make an embroidery statement that resonates with reality.

Click on the images to explore the 2023 Visual Brief’s themes on Pinterest.

Madge Gill

Intuition by Madge Gill

Tracie Cheng

The seen and the unseen by Tracie Cheng

Chad Knight

Disconjunction by Chad Knight

Register today

Select you category and specialism and get started today.

Register now
Hand and Lock large logo