Urban sculptor turns Rome’s tree stumps into works of art

Rome’s street art usually sprawls unapologetically over walls and building facades (just take a look at the murals in Ostiense and San Lorenzo). Its newest outdoor masterpieces, however, are found lower to the ground.

Tree stump art in Rome
One of Andrea Gandini’s tree stump sculptures in Rome. Photo by: Alexander Bruzzese

Twenty-one-year-old Andrea Gandini has methodically been making his way around the Eternal City, transforming abandoned tree stumps from eyesores into captivating urban sculptures. His first exhibition, called Troncomorto, opens on 6 April at La Clessidra Sala Blu a short jaunt from Piazza Navona.

Artist at work on the streets of Rome
Urban sculptor Andrea Gandini at work. Photo by: Alexander Bruzzese

It all began two years ago when the high-school art student ran out of sculpting clay. Gandini turned to his home city for inspiration, and found it already replete with raw material waiting, in his words, to be “brought back to life.” The young Roman doesn’t just choose any stump though; if the wood is too soft, it means its rotten and unsuitable for metamorphosis. After selecting the perfect piece, Gandini gets to work with his chisel, chipping and carving into the lifeless timber.

Artist likes to resurrect dead trees
Gandini likes to bring dead trees ‘back to life’. Photo by: Alexander Bruzzese

The process can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. “Wood is different from other mediums because it was alive. With my sculptures I try to return a certain dignity to these ‘leftovers’, usually by carving a face or a bust into a trunk to give it a human identity,” Gandini says. “My work almost becomes like a headstone in honour of what was once a tree.”

One of Gandini's restored tree stumps
A tree stump brought back to life by the artist Andrea Gandini. Photo by: Alexander Bruzzese

So far, he’s revamped 54 stumps in the capital. His official website provides a map of where each sculpture can be found, though chances are you’ll happen upon them on your own. You can also shoot him a message to suggest a particular tree stump in need of revival. Says Gandini, “When I see someone appreciating one of my sculptures it’s dreamlike. An artist creates in order to elicit emotion.”

By Alexander Bruzzese

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