Giuseppe Penone

Francesco Corallo | A look at the life of the artist Giuseppe Penone

Giuseppe Penone is a well-known artist from Italy. Born in 1947, he became interested in art at the age of 21, and chose to join the Arte Povera movement; this took place during the late sixties and early seventies, in Bologna, Naples, Venice, Rome, Milan and Turin.

Those involved in this movement were known for their radical ideas about art; they were eager to take a stance against the established artistic values which they felt had been imposed on them by the government. Penone was one of the movement’s youngest members; whilst there was some hesitation to bring him into the group, due to his age and lack of experience within the art world, his highly experimental approach to his work impressed the other artists, and eventually led to his acceptance.

Penone has always been concerned with the connection between nature and man, and has explored this subject through figurative drawings, installations and sculptures. Those who are interested in art, such as Francesco Corallo, may be aware of the fact that Penone’s use of unusual materials has become an essential component of his work, with each of his pieces having tactile, visual and olfactory facets which draw the viewer in.

During the seventies, Penone became fascinated with the idea of using his own body as part of his work; he made plaster casts of his limbs and face, and began to project images onto these sculptures. He then made a collection of bronze vases, onto which he then placed his own fingerprints. Whilst Penone remained interested in this idea for many years, the way in which he expressed it evolved over time. During the eighties, he started to incorporate large, vintage farming tools, made from wood and metal, into his ‘body’ pieces.

As an art enthusiast, Francesco Corallo may know that one of Penone’s most famous works can be found in the Whitechapel Gallery in London. This sculptural piece, entitled ‘Spazio di Luce’, was inspired by a fallen tree which was discovered by Penone in a forest. He chose to make a cast of its trunk, using bronze, as he felt that this material’s texture and colour had similar qualities to those of bark. He then used the branches from the tree itself to hold up the finished bronze cast, thus merging a natural object, with a man made one.