Bouke De Vries critique

lenses of critique Bouke DeVries

Memory vessel jardiniere, 18th century Delft jardiniere and glass


Guan Yin in a square of roses, 18th century Chinese blanc de chine figure of Guan Yin, 16th, 18th and 19th century Chinese porcelain fragments (2)Memory vessel 47, 2017 18th century Japanese Imari porcelain vase and glass


Bouke De Vries. Selected works 2017-2018 retreived from

Lens 1) Formal

line, shape, form, color, balance, contrast, scale, harmony

Obviously, most of the formal elements arise from the original ware. DeVries’ creative contribution is mostly as a curator in a conceptual manner.

How did Delft blue come about? These examples are Chinese in origin. The blue hue is thought to be in imitation of lapis lazuli and is a much older tradition (Wikipedia). It has a long history and undoubtedly DeVries has ample inventory of broken pieces.

The DeVries choice in (1) and (3) recreates the shape of the original ware in glass. The original potter’s shape is preserved. In (2) The repaired statue is surrounded by rose ‘flowers’ imagined and glued by DeVries.

Also of interest is the repeated figures in (3). Is there a story in the original? It’s lost to a casual viewer now.

Len 2) Biography

Biography of the artist

Excerpts from retrieved 1/25/2020

“Every day in his [DeVries’] 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.’”


“Where even an almost invisible hairline crack, a tiny rim chip or a broken finger render a once-valuable object practically 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.”

DeVries is clear and conscious concerning his process. The cited web site explains his thoughts and theme exactly and in detail.

Lens 3) Psychological

How do you feel about the work

I felt instant identification with DeVries’ theme because of course it is mine as well.

Sad -> pessimism -> humility 33% <- optimism 33% <- Glad 33%

Mad -> aggressive -> courage 100% <- avoidance <- Afraid

And the other basic emotions:

Surprise 100% Disgust 0%

Also: Determination, eagerness, excitement, satisfaction

Lens 4) Art Historical

How does it relate to history/other artwork

Two strains are evident in these works. The multicultural tradition of fine ceramics is one and a conceptual aspect is another. DeVries cleverly uses both to make his point about impermance.

Here’s another take on repurposing:

and another:

Lens 5) Sociological

How does it relate to its time and culture? Why now?

A conceptual impulse such as DeVries’ is a common contemporary art rhetorical device. DeVries’ choice is however much more hedonic than what many artists use: a text on a wall.

I’m imagining in terms of cash flow he is a restorer first and an artist second. He is obviously a skillful and successful craftsman.

Postmodernist notes in his work are: recycling, craft advantaged over fine art, commentary on aesthetic values and critique of the art market (maybe capitalism too?).


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