There’s no way a tree trunk tied into a perfect knot could possibly be real, right? Yet if you were to step close to this one and run your hand along its bark, you’d be hard-pressed to discover any sign that it’s not. Though it looks like digital art, the “TWIST” collection of tree-trunk-warping works by a French artist known as Monsieur Plant is comprised of actual sculptures crafted almost as carefully as if Mother Nature herself made them.
Christophe Guinet mainly works with natural materials to create his botanical sculptures. His latest project “highlights a series of sculptures representing tree trunks that come straight out of a fantastic and magical universe,” as he explains on his website. “This series of works consist of five tree trunks which connote through their shapes emotions that we can find in nature.”
The collection includes five large sculptures: a heart, an infinity loop, a spring coil reminiscent of barbed wire, a simple knot, and a more complex knot he calls “Wooden Lace.” Guinet stages the pieces in the forest and photographs them in their “natural environment,” adding to the illusion that someone has stumbled upon strange natural formations. The artist hopes the sculptures spur a sense of childlike wonder, awe, and appreciation for everything trees can do.
We’ve seen other works of art in which living trees are painstakingly guided into certain shapes over years or even decades, like the stick buildings of Patrick Dougherty and “Baubotanic” living architecture by students at the University of Stuttgart. Sometimes nature itself does the shaping, like when trees grow around objects, twisting themselves into surprising and unexpected forms. Monsieur Plant makes things happen a little faster than that with his own artistic methods, which involve plaster and real pine bark.
Guinet says forest walks inspired him to work with natural materials, raising questions about how nature adapts to its environment and its own innate creativity. His previous works often incorporated wood, bark, and moss, like an entire wearable Batman suit made of pink bark, a tree bark skateboard, arm-shaped moss sculptures wrapping around a real tree, and Nike sneakers made out of flowers.
“Contemplative and passionate aesthete of the plant world, he uses his findings related to places and seasons, to create works of art with care and a concentration close to the meditative state,” reads Guinet’s artist statement. “The artistic process is thus an integral part of the final work of art. As ephemeral and fragile as a bouquet of flowers, Christophe’s compositions show us the beauty of nature through everyday and cult objects. His care to minimize the harmful impact on the environment is in contrast to the escalation of consumerism and the race to keep producing objects which are ever newer, more technical, more ‘hype’.”
“His fields of reflection revolve around love, life, death, as well as the ambiguity of the cycle of life in a society where death has become extremely taboo. It is interesting to see a work fade, die, follow the cycle of the seasons. It reminds us of our own cycle: a flower blooms and fades to resume the same cycle the following year. We too follow certain cycles & states: childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, then death. It is inevitable and every stage of life should be celebrated and magnified.”