During the months of June and July, nine galleries of the Amsterdam Jordaan district will join forces for the second time to organize Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (N.A.P.) featuring work by Bouke de Vries. This year, the exhibition will be curated by Joost Declercq, director of the Belgian Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens and Charlotte Crevits, curator of Dhondt-Dhaenens. For this second edition, Declercq is selecting one artist per gallery, to be paired with one or two Belgian artist(s) not represented by a gallery in the Netherlands. By coupling these artists, Declercq is putting them in the spotlights as well as providing the galleries with a link to foreign partners through international collaborations. Artists exhibiting at Galerie Ron Mandos for ‘Nieuw Amsterdams Peil (N.A.P.)’ are Bouke de Vries (NL, 1960), Koen van den Broek (BE, 1973), Edith Dekyndt (BE, 1960).

Participating galleries: andriesse ~ eyck gallery, Annet Gelink Gallery, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, GRIMM, Galerie Ron Mandos, Stigter Van Doesburg, tegenboschvanreden, Galerie Fons Welters, Martin van Zomeren

‘Veracht den burgerman, doch ledig zijne kruiken. Despise the solid burgher, but drink deep from his flagon.


About the artist: Bouke de Vries (gallery artist)

The Dutch artist Bouke de Vries (1960, Utrecht NL) is best known for his tactile, poetic sculptures in ceramics. He studied design and has a background in restoration. In the porcelain universe, seemingly antithetical concepts such as beauty, decay and transience find a startling reconciliation. A link to 19th century Romantic ideas is always close at hand. In the work of De Vries, construction and deconstruction are two sides of the same coin. Taking fractured ceramics from different cultures and traditions (such as Delft, Royal Worcester, Kangxi and Sèvres), he transforms them into new and unimaginable assemblages.

ABOUT Bouke de Vries

Bouke de Vries (1960) was born in Utrecht, NL
He lives and works in London, UK

Bouke de Vries studied at the Design Academy  Eindhoven, and Central St Martin’s, London. After working with John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes, he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration at West Dean College. Every day in his practice as a private conservator he was faced with issues and contradictions around perfection and worth: “The Venus de Milo’ is venerated despite losing her arms, but when a Meissen muse loses a finger she is rendered virtually worthless.”

Using his skills as a restorer (c.f. Ron Mueck’s model-maker skills), his ‘exploded’ artworks reclaim broken pots after their accidental trauma. He has called it ‘the beauty of destruction’. Instead of reconstructing them, he deconstructs them. Instead of hiding the evidence of this most dramatic episode in the life of a ceramic object, he emphasises their new status, instilling new virtues, new values, and moving their stories forward.

The more contemplative works echo the 17th- and 18th-century still-life paintings of his Dutch heritage, especially the flower paintings of the Golden Age, a tradition in which his hometown of Utrecht was steeped (de Heem, van Alst, van Huysum inter alia), with their implied decay. By incorporating contemporary items a new vocabulary of symbolism evolves.

These ‘dead natures’ – natures morts – give everyday household objects, a plate, a milk jug, a teapot, a modern poignancy that refers back to the vanitas and memento mori paintings of that period. An installation in de Vries’s London house is arranged in the manner of Daniel Marot with white Delft domestic pottery rescued in fragments from 17th- and 18th-century rubbish tips, now dug up and partially pieced together. Among them are two small artists’ paint pots with the pigment still in them, as possibly once used by – who knows? – Vermeer or Rembrandt.