With Metal Skulls and Horns, Turkish Artist Re-Interprets Ancient Stories

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Metal skulls, a part of Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin's artwork
Metal skulls, a part of Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin's artwork "Chamber of Immortality", is pictured in Istanbul, Turkey September 13, 2018. Picture taken September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
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By Bulent Usta
ISTANBUL (Reuters) 

In a disused hangar in Istanbul, Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin uses thousands of metal human skulls and twisting, spiky animal horns to re-tell some ancient myths in a towering, fearsome installation

Gunestekin says his work “Chamber of Immortality” draws on the Epic of Gilgamesh – the Sumerian king who tried in vain to find the secret of everlasting life, and on the closely related Biblical story of Noah, whose ark some believe landed on Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest peak.

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin poses next to his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin poses next to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

The centerpiece is an enormous metal skull with a twisting animal horn jutting from its mouth, made up of 11,000 smaller skulls, all crafted by hand. Around it sit two curved walls made of yet more skulls, some of which sprout animal horns from their ears, temples and mouths.

The large skull represents Noah, while the tongue-like horn that spills from its mouth represents animals, Gunestekin said.

 

 

“In a way, it shows how the concepts of human and animal are nested within one another,” he said.

The structure, which tool 4-1/2 years and $1 million to create, is inspired by Gobeklitepe, a 12,000 year-old temple in Turkey that this year became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin poses next to with his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin poses next to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

A self-taught artist, he is known for unconventional techniques to depict oral narratives, myth and legends mainly from Anatolian and Greek civilizations.

“Chamber of Immortality” will travel to London, Berlin and New York after being exhibited in Contemporary Istanbul on Sept. 20.

 

(Writing by Yesim Dikmen; Editing by David Dolan and Raissa Kasolowsky)

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin puts finishing touches to his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin puts finishing touches to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin, accompanied by his team members, puts finishing touches to his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin, accompanied by his team members, puts finishing touches to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

A metal skull, a part of Turkish artist Gunestekin's artwork "Chamber of Immortality", is pictured in Istanbul
A metal skull, a part of Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin’s artwork “Chamber of Immortality”, is pictured in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin's artwork "Chamber of Immortality" is pictured in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin’s artwork “Chamber of Immortality” is pictured in Istanbul, Turkey September 13, 2018. Picture taken September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin puts finishing touches to his art work "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin puts finishing touches to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin poses next to his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin poses next to his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin's artwork "Chamber of Immortality" is pictured in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin’s artwork “Chamber of Immortality” is pictured in Istanbul, Turkey September 13, 2018. Picture taken September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

 

Turkish artist Gunestekin, with his artwork "Chamber of Immortality" in the background, talks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul
Turkish artist Ahmet Gunestekin, with his artwork “Chamber of Immortality” in the background, talks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul, Turkey September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer