For the artist Giuseppe Penone, “a person and the reality surrounding him have the same value”

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Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, born in a Piedmont village in 1947, is a giant of modern art and a pioneer in the artistic understanding of the relationship between man and nature. Often known for his monumental sculptures, the 2014 Praemium Imperiale award winner is currently showcasing the importance and importance of his paintings through an exhibition of 241 works at the Center Pompidou-Paris, Paris. Care.

RFI: You are famous all over the world for your sculptures and monumental works. What is the role and status of painting in your creativity?

Giuseppe Penone : A painting is a moment of reflection or a record of the ideas of the work I want to do. Sometimes it’s something that inspires work, because maybe I’m working on an idea and something else pops up. The painting has a function, a reason related to the idea of ​​the work. For this, you can also see various techniques related to the implementation of drawings. Each idea needs concrete material to be expressed. This is what I look for in a painting. It has the function of recording an idea, sometimes a project, sometimes it has the function of thinking about a finished sculpture, and it can lead me to other sculptures.

Is there a painting that changed your life as an artist? ?

It is perhaps a painting that is a synthesis of thought, Increase (” Don’t spread “). This is a drawing made of an ink fingerprint. Then I joined the lines of the fingerprint until it formed a circle. I continued this circle on paper with the idea of ​​diffusion in space. I was immediately interested in this connection: the lines of the finger, a kind of “animal” print and the relationship between the lines I draw with the pen. These are lines of very different status, because the status of the mark is something automatic—reflective, of course, but it belongs to everyone—but the lines of the drawing express the sameness of thought in relation to the identity of the “animal” mark.


Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

Some of your paintings are enriched with colors and watercolors, but the main ones are Indian ink, typographic ink and graphite enamel. Are these materials the blood in your paintings? ?

Yes, we can say so, because ink, pencil, charcoal, these are stable organic materials. At the same time, it is “dirt”, for example, when you stain your hands with it. Coal is dirt that can be turned into something very valuable, it forms “dirt” in the cavity of the formation.

The exhibition insists on having six sculptures alongside the paintings. What is the essence of the relationship between painting and sculpture in your works? ?

It may be the most symbolic example Soffio (” Breath ») in terracotta. You have drawings that are sketches of the work itself, thoughts about the work, or things that spark the idea for the work. Linked to other designs Breath, but they have a completely different character because they are designs based on the idea of ​​the male or in this case female body. There are also cases where the painting enriches the reading of the work.

In the exhibition
In the exhibition “Propagazione” (1994) “Giuseppe Penone. Paintings” at the Center Pompidou-Paris. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

The distinction between man and plant is often reduced in your works. Today, more and more artists are trying to move away from anthropocentrism. You feel like you are a pioneer in this field ? Is there a greater need for this approach today? ?

The first thing I did was the tree I bought [Alpes Maritimes. Il poursuivra sa croissance sauf en ce point, 1968]. I associated my personality with the tree being, a form in evolution, in growth. I then replaced my hand with a cast steel and bronze hand that I attached to the tree. My idea was to connect my body with the trunk of the tree with this gesture. There was parity between the two elements. The tree would be aware of the shape of my hand, and I would be aware of the development of the tree’s life. It was an egalitarian view between the two elements.

Your question is about something that is central to my work. I think that man and the reality surrounding him have the same value, and sometimes we may even have doubts… For example, if we consider the life of a person and the life of a stone, which is infinitely longer than a human life. life So what is more important? If it has an unusual life, the life of a person who will disappear after a hundred years, or the life of a stone found in buildings and houses, which our ancestors have already seen and which future generations will see again. ? If we look at reality from this point of view, considering the human being more important than other elements, it is not reasonable if we take into account the entire reality of the universe.

Giuseppe Penone – PaintingsExhibition at Center Pompidou-Paris, until March 6, 2023.

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