The Memory Vessels by Bouke de Vries are an ongoing series by the Utrecht-born artist and former ceramics conservator.
Bouke de Vries Memory Vessels
With degrees from the Central School of Art in London and the Design Academy in Eindhoven, de Vries first began working in fashion before he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration at West Dean College. In his practice as a private conservator he was faced with issues and contradictions around perfection and worth. The concept of “condition” and how a once valuable object can be deemed virtually worthless when damaged with as little as a hairline crack, led to his artistic ethos ‘beauty of destruction.’
He found that even when an object is worth restoring, some owners prefer to hide the damage as much as possible, to deny the evidence of what was probably the most dramatic episode in the life of the piece.
Now Bouke de Vries has chosen to de-construct ceramics as opposed to once reconstructing them. His Memory Vessels consist of shards of 17th, 18th and 19th century Asian, European and Delft pottery, porcelain and earthenware pieces enclosed in glass urns, ginger jars, pitchers and vases. The results are works of art that celebrate the new status of the original piece, accentuating its flaws and damage.
“Where even an almost invisible hairline crack, a tiny rim chip or a broken finger render a once-valuable object pratically worthless, literally not worth the cost of restoring. There’s something incongruous about the fact that such an object, although still imbued with all the skills it took to make it – be it first-period Worcester, Kang-xi or Sevres – can so easily be consigned to the dustbin of history.” – Bourke de Vries