Marlborough Gallery is delighted to present a selection of Ahmet Güneştekin’s art works inspired by Dhul-Qarnayn at 11th edition of Contemporary Istanbul. The works developed around the concepts of journey and immortality include the installation Journey to Immortality.
Güneştekin’s works in the Dhul-Qarnayn series can be considered as visual representations of the Dhul-Qarnayn figure that appears both in the Quran (Surah 18, verses 83-101) and the Torah.
The artist encountered the “Dhul-Qarnayn” figure during his journeys. The word “Dhul-Qarnayn” means both “bicorn” and “belonging to or of two centuries.” According to the legend, Dhul-Qarnayn sets out on three journeys: one to the West where the Sun sets, one to the East where the Sun rises and one to a place that is in the middle of both directions. Thanks to its superhuman powers, he can do amazing things, which may seem impossible to the minds of people, such as building a wall to protect people against Gog and Magog, commanding darkness and light.
Although it is argued that the story of Dhul-Qarnayn appears for the first time in the Surat Al Kahf, it dates back to the earliest written record. Carved on a stone table in cuneiform 3500 years ago in Babylonia, this written record is the longest poem in history. It tells the epic journey of the King Gilgamesh of Uruk, who was on a quest to find eternal life. Despite the fact that the intriguing legend of Gilgamesh, which fascinated our forefathers for centuries as a masterpiece, is as old as the invention of writing, it has managed to maintain its relevance and significance by transcending time and space as it addresses universal human values. Gilgamesh is a unique, strong and valiant ruler who can smash walls down. He is a dazzling and heroic warrior. On his journey to find eternal life, he kills the Bull of Heaven, cuts its horns off and places them on his head. This way, not only does he transfer the power of the bull to himself but also makes its soul a part of his own soul.
The horn in the artworks in the Dhul-Qarnayn series is a significant element, and serves as an indicator of the artist’s interpretation that Gilgamesh could be the Dhul-Qarnayn. The artist doesn’t strive for a direct and perfect match or overlap. Instead, he re-constructs Dhul-Qarnayn’s journey by interpreting it through his own experiences.
During his travels, Dhul-Qarnayn comes across this very unusual community. The amazement Dhul-Qarnayn feels in the face of their ways of living and thinking; and the similarities between Dhul-Qarnayn’s journey and Gilgamesh’s imaginary journey provided a basis for Güneştekin’s artistic creation. The community catches Dhul-Qarnayn’s attention due to their different practices. These people are humble, fair and compassionate. They bury their dead in front of their houses, which have no doors. Furthermore, they have no leaders, wealth or poverty, they have no judges and do not know violent disagreements, and do not commit murder.
The striking similarities between the people Dhul-Qarnayn encountered and the Yezidis, an indigenous ethnic group of north Mesopotamia whose shared values implicitly refer to the foundations of socialism, provided the philosophy behind his works. In this context, Güneştekin’s starting point is diversity. Believing that the place of a human being in the universe is a relationship of powers, he embraces all differences that make up life as a relationship of powers, and makes sense of his life in the broadest sense, together with death. In his works that will be exhibited at Contemporary Istanbul, Güneştekin shares his interpretations through Dhul-Qarnayn-Gilgamesh, a figure that is in search of immortality.
The artwork Journey to Immortality was constructed with twelve different horns of wild animals brought from four continents. Each of the horns and skulls that symbolize immortality life is decorated with patterns that are re-interpretations of mythological stories. Through the installation that was created with thousands of metal pieces and mirrors, Güneştekin asserts that unlike the written records that maintain that the journey was from the West to the East, the journey in fact was from the East to the West, and shows that this journey bears resemblance to his individual journey.
A select body of artworks by Ahmet Güneştekin, who has spent the last two decades exploring the Anatolian peninsula and the territories of ancient Mesopotamia as well as transforming his discoveries into the images of a personal language out of an interest in and commitment to memory and tradition, will be on display for art lovers from November 3-6 in the Marlborough Gallery booth, A1-103.
For press information and visuals:
Nilgün Özten / Güneştekin Sanat Merkezi
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