The work of *Bouke de Vries* also has distinct connections with the Golden Age. After having worked with several different fashion designers, De Vries made a career move into ceramic restoration. In this new line of work he was regularly offered pieces given up by their owners that, despite the traces of their use, had not lost any of their original charm. In his ‘exloded’ works, he takes advantage of this characteristic of these pieces. Instead of attempting to erase the traces of use and damage, he elaborates on it, so that these works gain a new lease of life. They become still-lives permeated with a ‘Vanitas’ character: a popular theme with many contemporaries of the 17th century ceramists who made these objects.

_Bouke de Vries (Utrecht, 1960) lives and works in London. He studied at the Design Academy in Eindhoven and Central St Martin’s in London. Having worked with the likes of John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes, De Vries studied restoration at West Dean College. Aside from his work as visual artist, he also works on projects for other high profile artists, such as Grayson Perry. His work is included in collections such as that of Kay Saatchi, and the Zabludowicz collection._

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.