The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Giuseppe Penone Archives
Giuseppe Penone's works often concern various forms of skin, not least his own. Skin, after all, is the point of contact between us and the world around us, an exciting zone of encounter and experience. It also becomes a substitute canvas, a support upon which history leaves its own traces in the forms of scars and other marks, the gradual accreted result of our exposure to life itself. It is a record, a narrative, a picture, in its own right. By using strips of tape covered in charcoal and other materials, Penone sometimes takes an impression of sections of his skin which he then projects onto a larger surface, marking it out in a variety of media. In this way, the veining that reveals the gradual growth of this skin is magnified. In Palpebra e spilli, executed in 1989, Penone has used a combination of felt-tip marks and pins to trace out the projected, and therefore enlarged, form of an eyelid. This eye has been magnified onto a colossal scale, towering over the viewer. In applying the pressure of the pen and the pressure of the pins in creating this monumental image, Penone has continued his fascinating dialogue with his surrounding reality.
That this represents an eyelid, and therefore by implication a closed eye, introduces another crucial recurring motif from Penone's oeuvre. As early as 1970, Penone had explored the nature of eyes and the ability of sight as a phenomenon in Rovesciare i propri occhi, for which he himself wore mirrored contact lenses. This resulted in an intriguing reversal of the usual process of seeing. The eye became a boundary, rather than a portal, to his perception of the world around him. This emphasised the notion of the limits of one's own body. So too in Palpebra e spilli Penone has created the image of the closed eye, with the ghostly presence of the iris peeking through, emphasising its status as skin, as border. In this situation, the eye itself would perceive the other side of the eyelid, the flesh and blood of the eye's owner, complicating the boundaries of sight. Indeed, by creating this image by projection, Penone appears to have overcome such limitations, to have created a view of the eye that is itself the product of a magnified version of the process of seeing.
The fact that he has used pins in this depiction of an eye adds a strange, visceral sense of discomfort to the work, introducing a deliberate unease. Pins and eyes, and indeed pins and skin, make for a dangerous combination that allows Penone to add another layer of complication to his depiction of the surface of his own body, for this image decidedly and deliberately rebuffs the sense of touch so central to the skin that it depicts.