Arts & Style

Coming soon to NYC: Turkish artist’s skull of many skulls

After four and a half years of work and a budget of $1 million, Kurdish artist Ahmet Günestekin has finished his latest piece, “Chamber of Immortality.”

Currently on display in his home country of Turkey, “Chamber of Immortality” is expected to travel throughout Europe in London and Berlin before being welcomed in New York City.

Massively towering over visitors, “Chamber of Immortality” is as ominous and menacing as it is intriguing and beautiful.

Separated into three individual pieces, the sculpture’s focus point is the sinister looking skull and serpent-like tongue made out of thousands of individual metal skulls and horns. Two large walls encompass the centerpiece, each plastered with horns pointing inward and decorated with skulls over a rainbow background on the outside.

The bright neon colors of the outside juxtapose the metallic and grim web of horns on the inside, but both sides help in setting the mood for the immersive sculpture and add to its complex meaning.

Aptly named, Günestekin’s piece investigates the relationship between humans and death and the various cultural notions surrounding the familiar fear of dying. He cites The Epic of Gilgamesh as being an important inspiration, as the story of the Sumerian king very much mirrors the same concepts of death. The epic tale follows Gilgamesh as he journeys throughout various mythological lands seeking immortality after seeing his companion Enkidu die.

Günestekin drew onto the ancient story of Gilgamesh as inspiration after seeing the discoveries excavated in Göbekli Tepe, a Turkish temple and archaeological site that many historians are remarking as the “starting point of history” for the religious and cultural evidence found there.

While the claim of Göbekli Tepe being the “starting point of history” is still up for debate, the archaeological excavations of the site do serve as the starting point for the “Chamber of Immortality.”  Günestekin interpreted the scenes etched into surviving monoliths found at Göbekli Tepe as depictions of ancient flood stories, like The Epic of Gilgamesh and the biblical story Noah’s Ark. Günestekin also proposes that these monoliths were used as a spiritual way of connecting the ancient people to the sun.

Inspired by the individual relationship of the ancient people with the mythology of a “life-giving” sun, Günestekin sought to replicate that connection between humans and life while also exploring the themes of death at the core of The Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah.

Noah’s influence in “Chamber of Immortality” can be seen in the rainbow imagery, snake and of course animal horns, all of which served as vital signs in the biblical story of rebirth and survival.

Günestekin is no stranger to translating oral narratives into modern art. The self-taught artist sports an impressive and expansive portfolio full of pieces of varied mediums inspired by legends and mythology.

A lover of symbolism, Günestekin employs many mythological motifs in his work, like the sun disc seen in the painting “Sound of Time” and inspired in “Chamber of Immortality.” This blend of classical civilizations’ cultures and modern artistic mediums separate Günestekin’s work from other modern artists for he is not just rehashing themes done before, but instead is breathing new life into them.

The artwork was shown free of charge to the Turkish public up until Sept. 20.

From there, the sculpture will be on view in London and Berlin and finally will stop here in New York City for a showing.

The exact date and location for the work has yet to be announced for its New York stop, but details should be released soon by the artist.

September 28, 2018

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Sven Larsen


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