This quotation from the Italian sculptor, Guiseppe Penone, really resonated with me. While my current practice with trees is based around the collective visual of a forest or wood and the connectedness and interiority of being Among Trees, I find the idea that through life, a tree, will generate its own form sculptured by natural events quite fascinating. Furthermore, in the context of a wider collective of trees that their collective form is moulded, melded and determined through that inter-connectedness.
Trees have been a recurring motif in Penone’s work since his early career, when in 1968, at the age of 21 he created Alpi Marittime, a piece depicting a sapling gripped by a steel hand. In 2017 he installed two bronze tree sculptures in the snow in Gstaad, Switzerland. However, it is his work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park entitled A Tree in the Wood (2018-19) that captured my imagination. Penone integrates his work into nature but never makes a piece for a particular space – the idea of the sculpture comes first in his practice.
Matrice (2015) formed the centre piece in the Underground Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, a 30-metre trunk of a bisected fir tree meticulously carved to follow one of the tree’s growth rings. Outside, nine bronze sculptures, including L’ombra del bronzo standing sixteen metres high and overlooking the gardens, and the spectacular Albero folgorato, a lightning-struck tree, its interior lined with gold leaf, reflecting the sunlight and the form of the tree. A number of his sculptures are featured in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s introductory film for the Exhibition (2018):
Rachel Spence of the Financial Times writes:
“In the lush, rolling hills of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, his sculptures have never looked more at home.” (2018).
Will Gompertz from BBC News, describes the sculptor as:
“An observer of nature who makes work to heighten our awareness of the beauty and power of the natural world.” (2018).
and Samuel Reilly of The Economist speaks of:
“. . . human emotions and natural elements held together in an unlikely balancing act.” (2018).
For my part, I wish I had been able to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and see the sculptures in situ and marvel at the integration of Penone’s work in the landscape. I am very interested by his description of individual trees as ‘living sculptures’ shaped by the natural world. This leads me to a vision of the woods and forests, and the individual trees where I work, as being outdoor sculptures moulded by the natural environment and the geography and climate of the Isle of Skye. This provides me with a link to the essence of Skye which I am searching for in my photography.
Giuseppe Penone: A Tree in the Wood. (2018). Available at: https://ysp.org.uk/exhibitions/giuseppe-penone (Accessed: 29 March 2021).
Giuseppe Penone: A Tree in the Wood. (2018). Available at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK0IUgXQAaM (Accessed: 29 March 2021).