Now Available: Limited Edition by Bouke de Vries
30 Pieces by Bouke de Vries
Material: Porcelain cast in acrylic resin
Dimensions: 24 x 10 x 4 cm
Edition of 30 + 2 AP
€ 1500,- excluding 21% VAT
We are pleased to announce a new limited-edition artwork by Dutch artist Bouke de Vries (b. 1960). Commissioned by Kunstinstituut Melly – Formerly known as ‘Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art’ – in Rotterdam and in collaboration with Galerie Ron Mandos, Bouke de Vries designed and produced his first-ever edition work. The edition includes 30 original sculptures made of porcelain and resin. Proceeds from the sale of this artwork benefit the exhibitions and educational programming at Kunstinstituut Melly. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity signed and dated by the artist.
In creating this work, fragments of an 18th century Chinese porcelain vase from the Qing Dynasty are cast in a resin sculpture. De Vries’s translucent sculpture is itself modeled after the original profile of the vase that these porcelain fragments come from. In creating each of the 30 works that conform the limited edition, the artist casts the fragments within his sculpture where these would have been in the original vase. For the artist, “crystallizing these porcelain fragments relates to the way memory captures a precise historical moment.”
In the Netherlands, the rise in popularity of blue and white ceramics came by way of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the early seventeenth century. The esteem and value of these ceramics was not only caused by their exotic provenance and designs, but also by their foreign material composition. These imported pieces were made in porcelain, a process that, just like its related applications, was kept strictly confidential by the Chinese. In the fourteenth century, when porcelain was considered “white gold,” the Ottoman Empire was already commissioning custom-made Chinese porcelain for export. The Ottomans are also credited for having first provided the Chinese with cobalt, the blue color-producing mineral, which they sourced from the region known today as Iraq.
But it was long-distance maritime trade that globally internationalized the style of blue and white ceramics. In the sixteenth century, the Portuguese were principally taking Chinese porcelain to Europe. When the VOC broke the Portuguese monopoly in Euro-Asian trade, at the start of the seventeenth century, a new global flow of ceramics began. For its part, Spain spread the influence of Chinese porcelain to the Americas through its Pacific routes, and Portugal through its Atlantic routes. While the VOC began importing and eventually commissioning Chinese porcelain for the European market, artists in the Netherlands began developing similar-looking, earthenware pieces, referred to as Delft Blue.
ABOUT Bouke de Vries
Born 1960 in Utrecht, NL
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.