Italian Artist Giuseppe Penone Creates a Bronze Tree

© David Parry/PA Wire

Giuseppe Penone is an Italian artist who loves trees. This latest work is on display at London's Whitechapel Gallery.

© David Parry/PA Wire

It is 12 metres long, and made out of bronze. It is divided into sections which rest on the tree's "branches". Its interior is lined with gold-leaf which the artist interprets as the sun's light. Hence the work's title Spazio di Luce (Space of Light).

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

When you look inside it is like a golden telescope.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The artist spoke at the gallery. Looking like an ageing rock-star and speaking in halting english, he described how he found the original tree in a magic valley in Italy. It was already felled, and he had it transported and began to work hisaartistry on it.

He uses the age-old technique of cire perdu, lost-wax casting. The inside of the mould has the impression of the bark of the original tree. The outside shows the artist's finger prints. In creating the sculpture the tree was destroyed and lives through the new piece of art.

Myra B./CC BY 2.0 Inhotim, Brazil

Although he does not consider himself an eco-artist, he has used trees as his canvas right from the start of his career. One of his first pieces consisted of a sapling whose trunk was gripped by a steel hand.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 Tree of 12 Metres (1980-82) Tate

His revelation at that time, which has become the basis of his work, was:

What I saw when I began was that the distinction between man and nature is false. Man is part of nature; it is our desire to conserve distinctions that has kept us separate.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The work has a lovely synchronicity with the new frieze on the front of the gallery: a Tree of Life by the artist Rachel Whiteread.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 2014

He's back! In another gallery, with another mould of a tree. This time filled with flowing resin.

Bonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0 2014

This one is half white Carrara marble and half thorns.

What fascinates me about trees is their structure: the tree is a being that memorializes the feats of its existence in its very form. Similarly, our bodies could be considered the sum of the performance of our existence. The tree can be considered a metaphor for the work of a sculptor who fixes his actions in the material.

Tags: Arts | Forestry | Italy | London