Gagosian Hong Kong presents Giuseppe Penone’s first gallery exhibition in Hong Kong, which includes key works from the last decade.
In an oeuvre spanning more than forty years, Penone has explored the subtle levels of interplay between man, nature, and art. His work represents a poetic expansion of Arte Povera’s radical break with conventional media, emphasizing the involuntary processes of respiration, growth, and aging that are common to both human being and tree.
In December 1968 Penone performed a series of formative acts, literally described, in a forest near his home in Garessio, Italy.
In the early 1970s, Penone continued to work with his own body by transcribing the textures of his skin and casting his face in plaster.
Engaging with, and subtly intervening in nature so as to reimagine it in artificial terms, Penone finds ever new ways to mark the persistence of biological life, harmonizing elemental occurrences in terms of his own artistic drive. In each work, he reveals the innate sculptural qualities of natural materials, chiseling marble and casting from nature to expose the deep patterns of growth and time.
The tree and its relationship to man is among Penone’s most enduring subjects and a seemingly inexhaustible source of inspiration. A series of works “Indistinti confini/Indistinct boundaries” (2012), with their individual subtitles citing ancient Italian rivers, are bare tree trunks on pedestals, carved with astonishing veracity in ghostly white marble, into which Penone has embedded rusting iron nails and bronze knots. These metal elements eventually leach into and stain the marble, so the work appears to be, in a sense, “alive.” “Foglie di pietra/Leaves of stone”(2013), from which the exhibition takes its title, is a series of sculptures in which tall splints of delicate cast bronze tree branches cradle found fragments of eighteenth-century ornamental stonework inspired by vegetal forms, a meditation on the endurance of nature beyond the passage of manmade culture and history.