Hripsimeh Sarkissian

1908Dersim (Tunceli), Turkey | 2000Istanbul, Turkey
Hripsimeh Sarkissian — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Hripsimeh Sarkissian, c. 1950, courtesy Anita Toutikian

Armenian textile artist from Turkey.

Born into a family involved in trading carpets among other things, in a region where textile making was a common activity especially among women, Hripsimeh Sarkissian had been familiar with textile designs and techniques since her childhood. In 1915 H. Sarkissian, just a child, survived the Armenian Genocide. She lost most of her relatives, including her father and siblings during the atrocities. Then, almost twenty years later, in 1938, she survived the Dersim Massacre, which was a military campaign led against the non-Turkish and non-Sunni communities in the area, this time with her husband and children. Her family was one of the few Armenian families that escaped the executions in their village, forced to leave their homes with thousands of other people. For nearly ten years the family lived in arduous conditions. Only after 1947, when the settlement law in Turkey was amended to give the right to displaced communities to return to their homes, they moved to Elazığ, a city neighbouring their native Dersim.

Following the death of her husband, in the early 1970s, she returned to needlework and embroidery. Her embroideries were mainly used as everyday objects, as doormats, kitchen cloths and coasters by the household. With their irregular forms and unusual compositions, in addition to their unpolished looks, these objects significantly contrast the traditional needlework techniques and styles practised chiefly in the towns of Antep, Maraş and Urfa. The vivid colours of these complex geometric abstractions deeply contribute to the allure of her works. Created while she was experiencing severe vision loss, the pieces are not only visually rich but also permeated with texture. The dynamism of the textures prevents H. Sarkissian’s works from being flat surfaces, inviting the beholder somehow magnetically to move closer and experience them through the sense of touch, which at certain exhibitions was not, as is usually the case, expressly forbidden.

One of her grandchildren, Anita Toutikian later became an avid collector of her surviving embroideries and brought these particular textile objects and their maker’s story into the public sphere. She first exhibited H. Sarkissian’s embroideries in Lebanon as the foundation of her own art installation. Her second exhibition focusing on these embroideries took place in Turkey, this time accompanied by a publication and a short film she created titled Longing and Belonging: A Video about the Life and Works of Hripsimeh Sarkissian (1908-2000). This exhibition opened in 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

A. Toutikian interpreted her grandmother’s embroideries linking their potential meanings to H. Sarkissian’s lived experience. She also named these works by referring to the specific events, people and places in her grandmother’s life. Within such a framework, H. Sarkissian’s embroideries have also been charged with an informative role, joining the significant efforts of memorializing the Armenian Genocide and confronting human rights violations.

Derya Acuner

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Linked articles
Linked themes
Discover other artists
Biography published in the framework of the program
Program TEAM: Teaching, E-learning, Agency, Mentoring

of Women Artists
& Exhibitions

Facebook - AWARE Twitter - AWARE Instagram - AWARE
Villa Vassilieff - 21, avenue du Maine 75015 Paris (France) — info[at]aware-art[.]org — +33 (0)1 55 26 90 29