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Giuseppe Penone

8 October 2022 - 29 January 2023

Museum Voorlinden presents a large retrospective of Giuseppe Penone (1947) from 8 October 2022 to 29 January 2023. In Voorlinden, the land art and arte povera artist sheds new light on our Italian relationship with nature. The exhibition includes both early and recent work, offers surprises and stimulates all the senses. Voorlinden shows iconic sculptures and immersive installations, alternated with modest and intimate works by Penone.

For Giuseppe Penone, nature is – and trees in particular are – both subject and material. In his sculptures, installations and drawings he incorporates tree trunks, leaves, marble and leather. In his poetic oeuvre he reveals our intimate connection with nature and makes us aware of its creative and transformative cycle and forces. For example, in Ripetere il bosco (1968) Penone peels off the annual rings of a tree to reveal its origins. In this way he unlocks growth processes that often remain invisible to the human eye.

Giuseppe Penone: ‘I feel the forest breathing, and hear the slow, inexorable growth of the wood. I match my breathing to that of the green world around me, I feel the flow of the tree around my hand placed against the trunk.’

Left: Giuseppe Penone, Propagazione (Propagation), 1999. Foto: Dorothee Fisher
Right: Giuseppe Penone, Rovesciare i propri occhi (To Reverse One’s Eyes), 1970. © Archivio Penone, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022

Exchange with nature

Giuseppe Penone often works with his breath and fingerprints, making a gentle and poetic plea for a harmonious coexistence of man and nature in the world. In Propagazione (Propagation) for instance, he uses his own fingerprint as the starting point for a monumental wall drawing that resembles the annual rings of a tree. Spazio di luce (Space of Light) is also one of the masterpieces by the Italian artist that is on display at Voorlinden and shows the touch of the artist fused with a tree trunk.

Director Suzanne Swarts: ‘Giuseppe’s oeuvre is pure poetry. He shows you the beauty that surrounds you every day, makes you aware at the world around you. Surrounded by his work, you will feel closer to nature than ever.’

Giuseppe Penone, Ripetere il bosco (Repeating the Forest), 1968-2022 © Archivio Penone, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022 | Photo: Antoine van Kaam

Sensory experience

The work of this artist stimulates all our senses: it is about touch, sight, smell, breathing and the subcutaneous. This all comes together in the key work Sculture di linfa (2005-2007), previously shown at the Venice Biennale. As soon as you walk into this immersive installation, you can smell the leather lining the walls and discover the patterns of a tree bark that are printed on the animal skins. It feels like you’re entering the interior of a tree. Penone’s work is created by touch and through intensive manual labour, which will literally be seen in Propagazione (2020). In this work, the print of Penone’s own finger is the starting point for a monumental, labour-intensive wall drawing. It is an exhibition which turns our view outwards but at the same time it makes us aware of our inner self.

Giuseppe Penone: ‘What is nature? Nature is whatever is outside; nature will be present even if the human species goes extinct. If you think of humans as part of nature, rather than above nature, then our concerns and nature’s concerns should be equal.’

Head of exhibitions Barbara Bos:: ‘I think Giuseppe Penone masters the art of living. He works steadily on his contemplative oeuvre, wherein he points us to our oneness with nature and natural processes, and that small changes can make great impact over time.’.’

Penone and Voorlinden

Penone’s work emphasises and reinforces Voorlinden’s relationship between art and nature. Voorlinden has been following his work for a long time. For instance, in the 1990s his bronze sculpture Biforcazione (1991) became part of sculpture garden Clingenbosch. In an era in which our relationship to nature is an important topic, this is the moment to have the highlights from Penone’s oeuvre take over the spaces of Voorlinden.

About Giuseppe Penone

The Italian artist Giuseppe Penone was born in 1947 in Garessio and studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Turin, where he still lives and works. He was the youngest representative of the arte povera, a group of artists in Italy that opposed industrialisation and dehumanisation in art in the late 1960s. His oeuvre, in which land art also plays a major role, is displayed all over the world in museums, public spaces and gardens. His work is included in important collections, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

Build-up film Giuseppe Penone

Video by Studio Roodenburch
Music by Prélude by Matteo Myderwyk
All artworks: © Archivio Penone, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2022