Anyone who has encountered a living tree slowly integrating with an adjacent metal fence, or patiently absorbing an affixed street sign over the course of decades, can bear testament to the incredibly adaptive power of trees. French artist Christophe Guinet, who uses the moniker Monsieur Plant, has drawn inspiration from this arboreal superpower to create TWIST, a series of sculptural works that mimic the ability of trees to assume other forms.
Guinet’s works are achieved through a meticulous plaster-sculpting process before being covered in pine bark to create the illusion of a real tree trunk. The final effect is double-take worthy and thoroughly defies logic, even at close view.
“It was during my walks in the forest that I was inspired to create this project, by observing the way trees grow and their unusual, unique, humorous shapes,” Guinet told Hyperallergic. “[It raised] questions for me about adaptation in its environment and to what extent nature can surprise me.”
There are five large sculptures in the collection, with forms ranging from identifiable symbols like a heart and infinity loop to common configurations, like the spring coil and knot. The largest, most complex work, “Wooden Lace,” presents an intricate confluence of tree forms.
“I have no training in botany, I’m just passionate since my childhood and self-taught,” said Guinet, who identifies as a botanical artist and urban gardener. The works represent a continuation of the artist’s affinity for the environment and his practice of combining motifs from popular culture with the natural world.
Previous work by the artist includes installations in nature, performances, and interventions with manmade objects that complicate their origins and conflate them with organic growth processes, such as a pair of sneakers completely covered in flower petals or bark. For his 2015 performance “Batwood,” he posed in front of the iconic glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris while wearing a Batman outfit seemingly comprised of bark.
With TWIST, Monsieur Plant has created an eye-catching body of work that is both formally beautiful and engenders a sense of wonder and curiosity in the viewer. One can only imagine the experience of encountering one of these works in nature and being left to question all that we know about what trees can and cannot do.
“I don’t have a favorite species. It’s during my walks in nature that I most often find inspiration,” the artist said. “This is the reason why I wanted to work on deformation, exaggerating the forms in order to challenge and question the person who observes my works.”