Giuseppe Penone at Marian Goodman, London W1

Marian Goodman Gallery are mounting simultaneous shows of Pennone’s work in Paris and London. The former deals with the human body’s relationship to the natural world, and the latter, entitled Fui, Sarò, Non sono (I was, I will be, I am not), shows ‘works emblematic of Pennone’s interest in the metaphysical relationship of his body to the living ecosystem.’

The two pieces I want to refer to here relate most directly to the body.


The first is this ‘drawing’ Spina d’acacia – contato, mars 2005, made of acacia spines, which are very spiny. They are glued, I think, to the canvas and point outwards. So they don’t prevent the owner of the mouth from speaking but they make his words barbed. And you couldn’t put your face close to his.



161019-giuseppe-penone-marian-goodman-07-for-webThe second is Trattenere 6, 8, 12 anni de crescità. Pennone attached a bronze cast of his hand to a young tree and has watched as the tree grows around the cast. He has gone back 3 times so far and made a cast of the tree trunk. The bronzes made from those casts are on display. Apparently the presence of the cast hinders the growth of the tree; but although the process is slow, you can see that in the latest bronze, on the right, the trunk is beginning to consume the hand creating a symbiosis of man and tree which have ‘metamorphosed to become one inseparable entity.’ This seems pretty ghoulish to me: man consumed by tree. But this idea is even more tainted for me by Greek myths in which people are turned into trees: Daphne into a laurel tree to escape unwanted attention from Apollo; and Kyparissos into a cypress as a result of his grief over accidentally killing a stag, a gift from Apollo. I’m not sure if Pennone’s intentions were so dark.