Dessins et gravures
Born in 1947 between Piedmont and Liguria, Giuseppe Penone remains very attached to his native village of Garessio. The luscious vegetation of the area shaped his artistic vision as much as his family background. As the son and grandson of farmers, all his work is dominated by nature.
His first sculpture dates back to 1968: Alpi Marittime - L’albero ricorderà il contatto (Maritime Alps - The tree will remember the contact). It consists of photographs documenting the artist hugging the trunk of a tree, with snow in the background. Soon, the only remaining trace of this contact was the outline of his body marked by barbed wire embedded in the bark. It was created in the social context of a pivotal year when art influenced by consumer society (notably Pop Art) was largely decried by the Arte Povera artistic movement. Giuseppe Penone joined this movement, advocating art's return to the basics, including the use of natural materials (earth, plants and rocks) and simple forms. In particular, he explored the relationship between nature and culture. Giuseppe Penone thus integrated time, life and movement into his works, including using his own body.
In 1969, at the age of 22, he mounted his first solo exhibition in a gallery in Turin. From 1997 to 2012 he taught at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. In 1999 he undertook a public commission to make a piece for the sculpture garden in the Tuileries Garden. L’Arbre des voyelles (Vowel tree) prefigured the terrible storm that struck France in the same year. This bronze cast of a 28 metre high oak tree, uprooted near Turin, is both fossilized and becoming a fossil, as five trees planted at its feet to represent he vowels A-E-I-O-U grow up around it. In 2004 the Centre Pompidou afforded him a major retrospective that brought together series of works that had until then been dispersed. This gave viewers the opportunity to observe his overall approach, which is rooted in the creative process, and also highlighted the individual works, even when viewed within the series. In 2007 he represented Italy at the Venice Biennale, transforming the hall of the Italian pavilion into a sensory cavern. The walls, covered with dampened and shaped leather, were transformed into bark, while on the floor, white marble suggests a topographical map with its contour lines and rivers. This Sculture di linfa (Lymph sculpture) is now featured in the collections of MAXXI in Rome. In 2012 he showed Idee di pietra, 1304 Kg di luce, 2010 (Ideas of Stone, 1,304 kg of light) here at the Domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire and created a perennial garden entitled Arbre-chemin, 2011 (Pathway tree) in a copse in the Historic Grounds. In 2013 he was invited to the Palace of Versailles as part of the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the birth of the garden designer André Le Nôtre. Twenty sculptures were erected in the Allée Royale leading from the Château to the Grand Canal and invaded the Star Grove. In 2014, he presented a large solo exhibition at the Musée de Grenoble, showing a mix of old work and sculptures that had barely been finished, as well as a site specific piece. In 2016 he returned to Chaumont-sur-Loire with a bronze sculpture Trattenere 8 anni di crescita, 2004-2012 (To retain 8 years of growth), a cast of his hand attempting to hold back the growth of a tree to eight years.
He now lives and works between Turin and Paris.