SOMETIMES I LOOK EAST, SOMETIMES I LOOK WEST
Bouke de Vries
Bouke de Vries
Bouke de Vries
Artists Bouke de Vries
Press preview e opening: Tuesday 23rd January 2018, 6.30pm - 9.00pmFrom 24th January to 14th March 2018 Officine Saffi is pleased to present Bouke de Vries solo show.
The practice of London-based Dutch-born artist Bouke de Vries perfectly reflects our time, feeding on the contemporary paradox of beauty: a spasmodic research of uniqueness and perfection wrapped in the aesthetic banalization of consumerism. His artistic vision stems from his own experience as a ceramics conservator. De Vries refutes the underlying western attitude that once something is broken it is only fit to be discarded. Even those who take care of preserving works of art often choose to disguise as much as possible the memory of the suffered trauma. Instead he considers himself closer to the Chinese and Japanese tradition of repairing important objects so that the breakage is celebrated, rather than hidden. “I want to give these objects, which are regarded as valueless, a new story and move their history forwards,” he has said. “A broken object can still be as beautiful as a perfect object,” he adds, citing the Venus de Milo, armless but still venerated.
A game of opposites that chase each other, as in the new Milanese exhibition by the artist titled "Sometimes I look east, sometimes I look west". Quiet, thoughtful but at the same time witty and subversive, de Vries’s sculptures offer a second narrative opportunity to exquisite objects, such as a Cocoon Jar from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), which changed its essence in a few moments from fetish to potsherd. De Vries skillfully deconstructs these ancient fragments, giving them a new symbolism. The swarm of butterflies surrounding the pot in "Resurrection Jar" alludes on the one hand to the cocoon shape of the vase, and on the other to their iconographic use as a symbol of the resurrection in the famous still lifes of the Dutch Golden Age.
China and Holland are the extreme poles of his narration. The first seen as the driving force of ceramics manufacture throughout history, the second, as well as his home country, a nation that reaches world power in 17th century, via their trade with the east. Ceramics played a pivotal role in this, not only porcelain from China but also Dutch Delftware, much of it inspired by Chinese porcelain. However, de Vries's interest is not limited to a reflection on the genesis of ceramic products, their forms, their uses and symbols. His intellectual curiosity embraces historical and sociological insights into the context in which – yesterday as today – these are realized or exchanged.
Artworks by de Vries may be exploded, combusted, destructured or, on the contrary, recomposed using the kintsugi technique – the Japanese practice of using gold to reconnect the fragments of ceramic objects – the quality of execution is what distinguishes each of these technics. "There was a time,” says de Vries, “when quality was not considered an integral part of a contemporary work of art: the idea was the essential parameter for its success. But now I think there is a return to a vision of the artist as a producer, as someone who possesses a particular creative ability that allows him to give life to sublime works.”
*Extract of the curatorial essay by Fabrizio Meris
BOUKE DE VRIES
Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 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.