Giuseppe Penone, Bifurcation (Set I), 1986
From the Tate Gallery:
Bifurcation1984 (private collection) is a sculpture comprising a forked branch, stripped of leaves and twigs, and a forked bronze structure, reminiscent of bark, which connect at the point of divergence. This set of related Bifurcation drawings, also highlighting the points of simultaneous connection and separation, suggest openings in the human body, such as wounds. For the artist they are the record of significant moments in the growth of the tree, which have developed over the years into forms which transcend their plant origin. Much of Penone’s work is concerned with time as a tranformative agency. Works such as Tree of 12 Metres (see Tate T05557) reverse the processes of time through excavation to resurrect a tree during early stages of its development. While the Bifurcation sculpture externalises the point of connection and divergence through the intersection of two different materials, in the drawings its internal qualities are emphasised.
Penone’s work is an expression of his belief that man and nature are one. In his art-making he emphasises the similarity between the gestures of nature, such as the movement of trees, the action of the wind, the flow of water in streams, and the physical gestures of man. In the early 1980s he produced several Plant gesture sculptures made of bronze. His work during this period likens the making of sculpture to movements in nature (often visible only at infinitesimal speeds) which are working in reaction to and in symbiosis with the structure of the surrounding environment. The traces made by man on the natural world are for Penone only another form of the marks constantly being made by the wind on the trees (breaking branches) or water on stone (wearing it away). ‘The bifurcations of the trees that appear so intimately human to us … The bifurcations of the fingers, by their movement through space, form the branches, the roots, and by the succession of actions in the same points, construct the branches and trunk of the plant. The woodland landscape is the action of sculpture.’
Giuseppe Penone, Tree of 12 Metres, 1980–2
From the Tate Gallery:
Tree of 12 Metres was made by scraping away the wood from a felled tree, which had first been roughly sawn into a beam, to reveal its internal structure of narrow core and developing branches. Penone’s aim was to return the tree to the form it had had at an earlier stage of its growth, making visible natural processes which are normally hidden. He made the first of his Albero or Tree works in 1969. In 1970 two Trees of 12 Metres were made as performances in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and at the Aktionsraum, Munich. These early Trees were still partially attached to the industrially-sawn beams into which they had disappeared and from which they now emerged like sculptural reliefs. In this semi-emergent state they were supported horizontally or propped diagonally against the wall in the space in which they were exhibited. With experience, Penone was able to work on increasingly thicker beams which contained the tree’s entire core and to cut all the background support away, freeing the tree’s centre so that it could stand vertically on its own. In the early 1980s he began to leave short lengths of the beams untouched to provide free-standing bases, from which the forms of the younger trees arise. In this version of the Tree of 12 Metresthe artist has left top and bottom ends still trapped inside the beam. A cut at the vertical mid-point has converted it into two pieces, each of which stands on a base formed by the remnant of the beam. The top part of the tree is thus inverted.