Bouke de Vries at Design & Dynastie

A work by Bouke de Vries is featured in the exhibition Design & Dynastie. From 18 June to 28 August 2022, Fulda will host this major summer exhibition. This year they celebrate the 250th anniversary of the first King of the Netherlands William I.

The work on view by Bouke de Vries is Delft memory vessel and kintsugi from 2020. De Vries mainly works with broken antique ceramics, repurposing them into contemporary sculptures. By making an exact replica of a broken vase and then putting the broken fragments inside the glass replica, he creates a memory of its original form. De Vries has been making these type of memory vessels since 2015. He constantly experiments with different materials, such as Delft, Royal Worcester, Kangxi, Kintsugi and Sèvres, each time resulting in new and expressive works.

Design & Dynastie
Fulda 2022
Curator: Nicole Uniquole
Art direction: Maarten Spruyt
Photo: Nicole Marnati

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.