Invited in 1969 by Germano Celant to contribute to the movement defining book, Arte Povera, Penone published his renowned work Alpi Marittime, from 1968, a collection of photographs documenting the actions of the artist in the woods near his hometown, with the intent of interacting with the process of the growth of the trees. It is from this debut work that Penone took inspiration from for I Colori dei Temporali. Penone directly intervenes into the growth process of the trees: he penetrates them with a sculpted model of his hand, he affixes bronze branches to the trunk, he alters its course of growth by imposing weights onto it or, as in this case, he lays a slab of copper to its trunk. The work is only complete after the passing of time however, highlighting the organic process and natural response of the tree to human intervention: “The tree, its emotional, formal and cultural significance having been lost and consumed, becomes a vital element in expansion, in proliferation and in continuous growth. To its ‘force’ was added another ‘force’, which is mine. Its reaction is the work” (Giuseppe Penone cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Haunch of Vension, Giuseppe Penone, May - August 2011, p. 59). Penone’s aim is not to alter the growth of the tree with the sole purpose of deforming it; he is rather trying to trace the correlation between the passing of time and the growth of the tree, both invisible to the naked eye. He captures it. Not being able to visualise it, he leaves us with only the traces. Through these traces the sense of the distinction between fluid and rigid is lost. Wood, in our experience, is a hard and rigid material, used for constructions and support of all sorts. In nature however, it is a fluid material, in constant growth and alteration.
In I Colori dei Temporali, the final result is the fruit of a unique reciprocal condition, a quasi-collaboration between the artist and Mother nature. Penone wants us to question what we see and look at with a different prospective. He intervenes on nature in order to bring us beyond the pre-established notions of materiality that we are used to and traces what we could not see otherwise.
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