Barrhead artist creates installation symbolising the global destruction of coronavirus

A Barrhead artist who lost the use of his hand in the Cypriot War has created an installation piece inspired by coronavirus - with 6kg of nails symbolising global destruction.

Quantum Corona by artist Gültekin Bilge. Pic: SWNS

Gültekin Bilge (74), worked on the vivid 3D artwork every day in the lockdown and completed it at the end of July.

The artist, who has painted full time since 2006, nearly had his right hand amputated aged 28 when he suffered devastating injuries while serving as a commando in 1974.

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A dumdum bullet - banned by international conventions due to their barbarity - was shot into his right hand and expanded, causing devastating injuries.

Surgeons were going to amputate until an ex-girlfriend who worked as a nurse told them Gültekin was an artist.

His hand was saved but is deformed and he cannot open it fully, and instead Gültekin worked as an art teacher for 30 years until he retired and was able to try to adapt his painting style to use his deformed hand.

But he moved to Scotland after meeting partner Anne McCann who was visiting Cyprus as she mourned the loss of her husband - and was instantly struck by Gültekin’s dazzling and surreal artworks, which feature Turkish weave designs and scratching techniques.

They fell in love and Gültekin moved to East Renfrewshire to live with management consultant Anne, and they converted a house into a studio space.

Dad-of-two Gültekin, who is of Turkish Cypriot heritage but has no allegiance to either country, grew up in Cihan, near Paphos, but considers Scotland to be home.

He used the lockdown as inspiration for a dramatic installation artwork, Quantum Corona, including breasts and penises to illustrate the disruption which had been caused to all aspects of human life.

Gültekin said: “I think coronavirus could be worse than the First and Second World Wars.

“It is very dangerous, people have not realised it is more than war, you fight something you can’t see.

“It is to give the virus a physical and aggressive form, there is 6kg of nails and breasts and phalluses.

“It is emotional, and it affects the economy, social and cultural life, human relationships.”

He lost his nephew, Turker Enver (58), to the killer bug in March, in London.

The virus inspired a 3D brightly coloured artwork painted on curved wood, with images of penises - used to represented creativity and the source of life - with nails hammered into them representing the damage done by the virus.

Gültekin added: “Suddenly you have something which is very aggressive, more aggressive than a war, this covid-19 nobody knew about.

“I used nails because other coronas have different shapes, most of them are either round balls or flat discs, or tall oval shapes, but this is most aggressive.

“The phalluses are symbols of destruction, of so many parts of the world.”

The nails represent the destruction of physical life and the chance to procreate but also the damage done to cultural life and the arts sector.

It is painted with wet-on-wet oil paint and during lockdown Gültekin was painting from 11am until 6pm.

Gültekin said: “I create what I don’t see in the world - it is from my mind and imagination, the work is part of that - I have to sit there and stand sometimes, to look at it and to think, then it comes.”

Before his life-changing injury he had completed a masters in Fine Arts at the Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts in the 1960s, and returned to North Cyprus to help rebuild his family’s farm which had been damaged by ongoing conflict before the war broke out.

He plans to die in Scotland and donate his artwork to the nation which has welcomed him and provided a social structure he never experienced in Cyprus.

Gültekin sold houses he owned in Turkey due to his passionate rejection of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has clamped down on freedom of speech and the press.

He added: “When the NHS asks me do I have any allergies, I say ‘yes, two - Trump and Erdoğan.”