New York-based Turkish artist Sermin Kardestuncer shows new works after a hiatus of more than a decade at Dubai’s XVA Gallery


Sermin Kardestuncer believes that titles are too prescriptive, and consequently her first solo show at XVA Gallery is unnamed, as are the distinctive multimedia works it encompasses.

The New York-based Turkish artist’s highly conceptual pieces study the relationship between memory and pattern, following two primal tropes: tightly coiled spirals and strict grids. The grids showed in a previous exhibition at Pierogi Gallery in New York and have an industrial feel to them that could reference Manhattan’s navigation system as much as the ruled velocity of the human life cycle.

Pattern has always been the cornerstone of Kardestuncer’s practice. “Without pattern is zero,” she says. “I am going towards zero — breath, air. Zero is my goal, perhaps towards the end of my life. Repeating a pattern or making the same things over and over again can be comforting. You start at the edge or the middle of a page and then you expand, like throwing a stone in the water and watching the ripples happen.”

All of the textiles Kardestuncer uses have a history to them. She seeks out imperfect scars in the form of stains, frayed edges, or permanent lines, and won’t purchase thread, instead pulling it from pieces of fabric. Tacked to the gallery wall, a nebula of delicate white dots has been painstakingly stitched onto a square of fireplace soot-stained muslin, a cheap material that originated in the Indian port town Masulipatnam, and was historically used for undergarments.

Kardestuncer went through an incubational chapter and took more than a decade-long break from exhibiting between 2001 and 2014. She describes her latest work as a slow process, as she insists on creating with her own organic rhythm — a method that comes across as positively countercultural for someone living as an artist in one of the world’s most frenetic and expensive cities, where time literally equates to money.

With a home studio and regular stints in Europe, Kardestuncer’s creative process, which involves hunching over fabric, needle and thread and waiting for a pattern to emerge, is best described as controlled ecstasy. “Sometimes you just can’t stop,” she says. “It’s comforting to stitch or knit, the need to fill an area and that stitch with the thread needs you because it brings you to infinity. You feel almost elevated, and for this reason I can’t work more than four or five hours per day.”

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Interventions Issue #34, on page 32.