Few things can be as heartfelt and honest as the relationship between man and nature – while man may see himself as raised above nature, the fact remains that we are part of it; we are every bit as organic as a tree stump in the forest. Based on this philosophy, Italian artist Giuseppe Penone applies his astounding craftsmanship to reflect on the harmony between man and nature.
As part of the Arte Povera movement, Penone uses materials that are humble and may at times even be thought of as simple. Even so, the well-articulated imagery of his works and his ability to create the illusion of figures carved into a tree trunk leave no doubt about Penone’s artistic prowess. Penone generally sticks to pure slices of nature in the form of tree stumps and trunks, carving them to create new imagery or peeling parts of them away to offer a glimpse of the small, fragile young tree that served as the beginning of the trunk.
The world seen through his eyes – literally
One of his most thought-provoking and iconic works is the performative Rovesciare I propri occhi (To Reverse One’s Eyes, 1970), in which he put on reflective contact lenses, had himself photographed, and then allowed the viewer to observe the world through the reflection in his eyes while he himself was unable to look at the viewer through the lenses. Through his work with nature and truthful insights into the world, Penone demonstrates his fascination with the raw world, the world that hides nothing and holds nothing back.