Magicians rope, shredded yoga mats and ash keys – the annual Cordis Tapestry Prize is back, and amongst the traditional woollens are the new materials of the modern maker, creating a juxtaposition of old and new, and not always in the way that you might think. Now in its fourth year, the prize was set up in 2016 by Miranda Harvey and Ian Rankin (yes, that Ian Rankin) of the Cordis Trust to celebrate ambitious and skilled tapestry weaving techniques, with a focus on the historic weaving centre of Edinburgh. With a prize pot increased to £8,000 this year, it continues to attract entries from around the world, showing huge diversity of method and aesthetic.

The shortlist exhibition this year is mounted in Inverleith House, the former contemporary art gallery in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, with its superb Georgian proportions and windows giving out on views that no other gallery can lay claim to.

So what of this year's batch? Certainly the diversity of the work on display proves the difficulty of the judging process, for there are works here of widely varying scale and complexity. But whilst size does not always matter, skill and subject does, with Norwegian artist Brita Been's large scale, flat-woven floral work “Vine”, based on traditional Telemark folk motifs given the overall prize last week.

It's an impressive work, visually, a bright weave of supersized bold floral motifs on a black background, a re-imagining of embroideries used on traditional Telemark white shirts, a homage to “women's creative work”, so often undervalued historically, as now. Breen's art is rooted in an interest in the long tradition of female weavers in her native Norway, a tradition which she both belongs to and pays homage to in this telescopic homing in on the sheer intricacy of traditional motifs, the sheer heft of time that such creation took.

On the opposite wall, Rachel Johnson's (UK) “Subtle Increase” hangs, black, shaggy, cormorant-like, in opposition, woven and plaited, far looser in style, texturally tactile, with real presence. In the next room, the first of Anne Stabell's (Norway) shimmering beige hangings, her Symbiosis (Lichen) somewhat animal in pattern, and oddly slinky too. Her colour scheme and the relative transparency – part of her interest - remains the same upstairs in her second work, “Summer in the Woods”, another beigey flickering of suggested branch outlines, or light blinding through trees, although there is something rather jarring in the palette.

Across the exhibition, there is work that functions as conceptual art, and work which relies for its impact on its aesthetics, its materials – some mix both. Anna Ray's (UK) Tassel is a joyous shower of cerise and orange woollen tassels, suspended on wire and pinned to the wall, a very loose interpretation, a conceptual tufted flower bed – kids (and adults) will love it.

The sense of fluidity in the work is repeated in Susan Mowatt's (UK) “Red, White and Blue Streamers”, which intricately weaves fragile paper streamers into tightly woven mats, or cascades them from the wall over a video screen.

Oddly, for work made from paper, the effect is rather like looking at plastic. It throws the video behind the work, of a seashore with rocky cliffs, bird-life, eggs, chicks, copious guano, into relief, as if the celebratory streamers are hanging like seaweed or so much plastic waste.

Louise Martin's “What is Green” grabs the attention, if you can spot it. A deeply skilled delicate white confection of very fine paper string, it is woven together in a construction so fragile that it fades completely against the white wall in the flat light of the gloomy afternoon on which I visit. The gallery assistant tells me some people have walked right past it, not realising that it is there. It's an organic construction, as if fields seen from space, held together in an encompassing white wire frame, bare spaces leaving you wondering what the features are that are left out.

Another tapestry which demands and repays close viewing is Yasuko Fujino's (Japan) initially unassuming “A Blind Garden”, a delicately woven tapestry in off-whites, very careful, very particular, very delicate, the loops left out and woven in, creating a shaded landscape of great depth despite its monochrome appearance. A path meanders across it, as if a stream in a landscape. It's a meditative piece which is only enhanced by the sight of trees swaying in the March winds outside the gallery.

And landscape occurs again in “For Irene Sendler”, the work of Joanne Soroka (UK), a golden tapestry landscape with ash keys worked in, its mountainous outlines and neatly arrayed keys in recognition of the woman who rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the last world war. Each seed, painted gold, represents a nascent life, the whole tapestry quietly exuding this, and memorialising too. The depth here is reflected elsewhere – an exhibition which bears repeated visits.

The Cordis Prize, Inverleith House, The Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh, Arboretum Row, Edinburgh, 0131 248 2971, Until 27 May, Tues - Sun, 10am - 5.30pm

Don't miss"Mist at the Pillars" is Andrew Kerr's sixth solo exhibition at the Modern Institute, although the first in which he starts to revisit his own paintings. Here, then, pairings and groupings of the same thing, redone, freed-up, so the artist conjectures, from the need to find form and subject, colour and composition. It has always been the way, you might say, the preparatory sketches, the worked-up drawings, the final piece. The process is laid bare, here, and the final destination is not what we might have it.

Andrew Kerr: Mist at the Pillars, The Modern Institute, 14-20 Osborne Street, Glasgow, 0141 248 3711, Until 11 May, Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm; Sat, 12pm – 5pm or by appointment

Critic's Choice

“Under the Cherry Tree” is the latest solo exhibition from Akiko Hirai at the Scottish Gallery, showing the London-based Japanese ceramicist's hand-built, decorative and practical vessels. Her longstanding work with the Moon Jar form continues – a type of storage jar unique to Korea in the 17th and 18th centuries – her trademark work with dark clay and light glaze bolstered with “landscape inclusions” that froth on the surface of the pot as if some volcanic by-product.

Based on the abundance of cherry blossom that marks the Japanese landscape at this time of year, and the celebration that results, the root of this particular line of work was found, still, much closer to her current home. “One night as I returned home from my London studio, I saw the winter cherry trees blossoming under the light and behind it was the round, white moon.” That juxtaposition inspired her to create a “light, peppermint green” cherry tree ash glaze, which is used on many of the pots and cups, jars and plates.

Experimentation with glaze is part of Hirai's art, mixing her very strong roots in the Japanese ceramic tradition with that of the British studio potter. The colours are reduced, letting the textures and form dominate. Glazes and surface treatments range from glossy to encrusted, thinly brushed or thickly applied on sculpted, hand-built forms. Impurities in the clay are part of the process, creating differing results in the firing. “You think you are looking at the outcome of events, but what we are seeing is not the results of the objects but the forces that create these marks.”

Akiko Hirai: Under the Cherry Blossom, The Scottish Gallery, 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, 0131 558 1200,

Until 30 Mar, Mon - Fri, 10am - 6pm; Sat, 10am - 4pm