GIUSEPPE PENONE, THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: SAP SCULPTURES

Penone, Sap sculptures, photo by Patrizia Tocci
Penone, Sap sculptures, photo by Patrizia Tocci
Giuseppe Penone
Giuseppe Penone

Giuseppe Penone (Sap sculptures) Sculture di linfa, 2007 Carrara marble, leather, wood, resin. Room-size. Permanent collection MAXXI Arte

“Power of suggestion is what enables a work to become independent of its creator. It works on the imagination and allows the viewer to appropriate it”. (Giuseppe Penone)

In Sculture di linfa (Sap Sculpture, 2007) by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone the leather walls, by a tanning process, evoke the bark of a tree. The veined white marble covers the whole surface of the room, in the centre there is a sort of bas-relief, “there is an imprint in the form of the brain”. On the floor a horizontal tree cut lengthwise to create two halves the hollowed out, with red resin poured into it.

Penone describes his work:

“The bark is definitely the most fascinating part of the trunk, but this sculpture is also related to my works back in the early Seventies on contacts with materials and surfaces. Sculpture is created above all trough touch and gesture. Touch is very important, the rapport with matter. There is always a space between the hand that touches and the touched thing. It is may be just the oil on the fingertips, but it still exists, a tiny space separating our bodies from the thing we touch. Wetting a piece of cowhide, a piece of leather, and

making it cling to a surface brings out a space as what there is between the hand that touches and the touched thing. I used animal hides tanned with a vegetable extract, the most ancient method, because you can model it by wetting it with water, and then, once it dries it keeps the form unchanged. The hides were wrapped around the bark of a tree trunk and then beaten to recreate the pattern of the bark on the animal skin. The skins covering the walls of the room in the installation envelop the empty space just as they were formerly wrapped around the trunk. It is like being inside the tree trunk. Scultura di linfa (Sap Sculpture) is another work that stresses the void. Odours are an integral art of this installation. There is strong smell of leather which mingles with the smell of the resin. Different elements interact. They are ment to offer a special interpretation and create a special sensation of the space and the process of the work. It is a ritual of sculpture and the way sculpture is made, devoid of other values or symbolism”.

Once again, Penone works on a subject dear to him: the imprint.

In a 2007 interview, the sculptor stated: “The imprint is an automatic image that we etch every day on thousands things, everything we touch receives our imprint. It is a image belonging to Animals, an image that has no culture, neither produces culture, it testifies of a life lived, but it is not a cultural product.”

These words do not surprise: Penone has always supported the idea that “the image does not stand for” but, on the contrary, “it is”, exactly as in the Palaeolithic works he admired. Footprints are particular elements, obvious and mysterious at the same time. Close, because well-acquanited, and yet far because absent.

It Reminds of Didi Huberman: the imprint is a sort of ” anachronism “, something that ties dialectically past and present, i.e. a timeless element because it connects past and present.

In conclusion, it reveals the weaving between the past and the present, between the presence and the absence, between the resemblance and the representation so important in Giuseppe Penone’s work.

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