Albero delle vocali, 1999–2000. Bronze and vegetation, 450 x 3000 x 1200 cm. Work installed in the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris.

Touching Reality: A Conversation with Giuseppe Penone

Giuseppe Penone takes an almost animistic approach to sculpture, instilling material, process, and object with a ritual significance that moves beyond the conventions of culture to capture something innate, though forgotten, in human nature. His definition of art is deceptively, disarmingly simple: the task of the artist is to explore the reality of the world that surrounds us, giving form to that exploration in a way that defies rote expectations. In his view, creation—including manmade creation—is nothing more, or less, than a force of nature, a logical, necessary energy that extends its touch across different states of being, categories of matter, and forms of life. As practiced by Penone, sculpture offers a return to origins: a creative act inspired through primary, sensory experience, it allows us to make a generative statement as potentially powerful as those of the natural world. Taking his cue from the tree—that masterpiece of essentialized, economical engineering—he strives to realize an equally vital sculpture, a language of both universal and individual relevance… see the entire article in the print version of March’s Sculpture magazine.