Bifurcation 1984 (private collection) is a sculpture comprising a forked branch, stripped of leaves and twigs, and a forked bronze structure, reminiscent of bark, which connect at the point of divergence. This set of related Bifurcation drawings, also highlighting the points of simultaneous connection and separation, suggest openings in the human body, such as wounds. For the artist they are the record of significant moments in the growth of the tree, which have developed over the years into forms which transcend their plant origin. Much of Penone's work is concerned with time as a tranformative agency. Works such as Tree of 12 Metres (see Tate T05557) reverse the processes of time through excavation to resurrect a tree during early stages of its development. While the Bifurcation sculpture externalises the point of connection and divergence through the intersection of two different materials, in the drawings its internal qualities are emphasised.
Penone's work is an expression of his belief that man and nature are one. In his art-making he emphasises the similarity between the gestures of nature, such as the movement of trees, the action of the wind, the flow of water in streams, and the physical gestures of man. In the early 1980s he produced several Plant gesture sculptures made of bronze. His work during this period likens the making of sculpture to movements in nature (often visible only at infinitesimal speeds) which are working in reaction to and in symbiosis with the structure of the surrounding environment. The traces made by man on the natural world are for Penone only another form of the marks constantly being made by the wind on the trees (breaking branches) or water on stone (wearing it away). 'The bifurcations of the trees that appear so intimately human to us … The bifurcations of the fingers, by their movement through space, form the branches, the roots, and by the succession of actions in the same points, construct the branches and trunk of the plant. The woodland landscape is the action of sculpture.' (Penone quoted in Celant, p.176.)
Germano Celant, Giuseppe Penone, exhibition catalogue, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, 1989
Giuseppe Penone: 1968-1998, exhibition catalogue, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela 1999
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Arte Povera, London 1999, pp.146-53