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Giuseppe Penone is an artist who works with natural elements and mostly trees. His care for nature and for life is overwhelming and very present in his artworks. We talked about another work of his in this article. This artist is referring to the Arte Povera movement in his practice, building a link with nature that is impossible to untie.
The artwork we talk about here is a work that fills up an entire room, and it is made of thousands and thousands of laurel leaves on the four walls, kept in place by a metal net. The smell is persistent in the room, and as you enter you immediately recognise it. The sculpture of a pair of lungs is placed on one of the walls, made of golden brass.
The metaphor of the trees that give us oxygen to breathe is crystal clear here: leaves cover up the entire room, and there is also the allusion of a lungs sculpture. The title of the work underlines this once more: Breathe the shadow.
To include the sense of smell in his artworks was also a way to differentiate this work from all the others (very few people work with the sense of smell in the arts, but we talked about one that does! Check it out here), to attract all the attention. It is also a way to stimulate the audience in a very unusual way, to make them experience the artwork.
Entering the space you have the feeling of belonging to something, of being part of a bigger nature that protects you and stands above you. The smell is a key part: it is the sense that stimulates more the memories, and in this case it transports the audience into another dimension.
It is now exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.