My choice of project is essentially a self-portrait in symbolic form and the product of several concepts which caught my attention through the first year of the MA.  I am not merely a body, and through this project I seek to represent those aspects which would not easily be communicated through an image of my physical self as a material form … I am also reconnecting with my roots through a skill my mother tried so often to pass on through my childhood, one which she had learned from the generation before her.

So, I have two lines of thought to follow in this project. Firstly, how to express my life and hopes in symbolic form and secondly, to explore the ways in which the creation of decorative textiles has been connected with the transmission of sacred knowledge or used as an active process similar to the magical  talismans outlined by Renaissance magi such as Cornelius Agrippa.

My horoscope

My power animal

Albrecht Dürer: ‘Melencolia 1’. I have included here a copy of the image which inspired the whole piece and placed it in the corresponding position to the bat which flies upwards in the corner of that etching, and which bears the title of the image across its wings. I have picked out in stitches the bat, representative of Saturn, and the numerical square connected to Jupiter as well as the wings and laurels of the angelic muse; perhaps I can draw on some of Dürer’s melancholic inspiration and the energies he appealed to.

Plato’s Cave:  This panel represent my education, as it demonstrates familiarity with the concept behind Plato’s allegorical explanation of our inability to see the world as it really is and the struggle we face in trying to do so. Plato describes a cave, at the back of which humans are chained facing the back wall, unable to turn their heads. Behind them burns a great fire and objects moving in front of the flames cast shadows on the cave wall. As the humans have never seen anything other than the shadows, they mistakenly believe that the shadows are the objects themselves. Now and then someone breaks free and turns to see the flames and the real objects; even less often an individual manages to escape the cave all together, even though the sunlight hurts their eyes, they persevere until they see the world outside of the cave but when they return to tell the others they are attacked for nobody accepts their words. I have chosen the silhouette of a man hunched over a computer as I think we spend so much of our lives staring out at the world through the internet instead of going outside to see with our own eyes. It is nice to think that through our studies on the MA we are at least rattling the chains and trying to turn our heads to see.

The Tarot cards are a form of divinatory practice based upon the drawing of cards and interpreting their meanings. Each card has particular associations and a reading may take many forms, from a simple one card draw to complex spreads. In this case I drew one single card with the intention to understand where I am now in my life. The card drawn was the Ace of Wands and this card is associated with new beginnings and opportunities.

The Tree of Life is a symbolic system within Kabbalah. It consists of ten Sephiroth (plus one invisible eleventh). These are emanations of the divine and represent the soul of man and of the universe, thus demonstrating the correspondences between different levels of being. The highest of the Sephiroth, Kether, is beyond the conception of man whereas the base of the Tree, Malkuth expresses the whole of physical existence. As Dürer represented the seven alchemical levels with a ladder and the alchemist’s crucible, so the tree of life represents different levels moving up towards the highest energies of the divine. As it represents the soul of man, it is therefore also a representation of a part of myself which is shared with the whole human race.

Esoteric Stitches powerpoint

This project is not just about nine discrete images independent of each other. It is a whole which is greater than its parts. There are themes moving across it and each panel adds meaning to others. To read more about Gill’s themes and the symbolic meanings of her embroidery, read her Review here: 

creative project essay by Gill Steele

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