The moment when something breaks is always dramatic, but rarely does that sense of drama remain when a broken object is repaired. The sculptures of Dutch artist Patrick Bergsma, “exploded” porcelain vessel forms seemingly held together by simulated bonsai and other fauxliage elements, are a delicate balance of both states. His works literally shatter our expectations of traditional Delft blue pottery, which was directly inspired by and sometimes a direct replica of Japanese motifs and Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, generating unexpected and organic forms out of entirely inorganic materials that lend his sculptures a remarkable tension and gravity-defying quality.
Bergsma’s obsession with pottery is a natural offshoot of the artist’s upbringing in a family of antique dealers, but while his parents presumably valued vases and plates that remained intact, Bergsma seems far more interested in taking these iconic vessels — or rather facsimiles thereof — in pieces, and then restructuring the fragments. Now living and working in Heerhugowaard, North Holland, Bergsma graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague in 1996 and has worked extensively with porcelain and bonsai since.
“In contrast to the history of art, which was very much about the ego of individual artists, the history of porcelain was much more free,” Bergsma told Hyperallergic. “Styles and techniques have been shared among different cultures, and the individual artist who made it was not as important.”
In addition to the meticulously reassembled porcelain, Bergsma creates the botanical elements of his sculptures. The artist explained that he began incorporating the bonsai tree motif as a result of his engagement with Meissen porcelain plates.
“The floating islands in the middle of those plates where inspired by Chinese decorations,” Bergsma said. “I liked their almost surreal effect and made contemporary versions of them. Those gave me the idea to make a 3-D version of them, and this resulted in the Beautiful Decay series.”
Though he initially employed real bonsai trees that had died or become diseased, his realization that some of the ailing trees might be saved led him to new practices, and he now creates replica trees using coconut fiber, polymers, kaolin, and quartz. Bergsma’s impressions of bonsai are thoroughly convincing, as are his flower forms, including send-ups of tulips, that serve as an easy symbol of his Dutch heritage.
In other works from this series, Bergsma isolates his elements, creating unique vessels, such as a Delft blue-style Nike Air Max shoe, or psychedelic “melting” porcelain that appears to merge the vessel with the free-form botanical element with no foliage necessary.
Bergsma draws his techniques and inspiration from a host of art practices, including Japanese botanical arts, like bonsai and ikebana (flower arrangement), and the ceramic-mending art of kintsugi, which highlights the lines of rejoined pottery shards with gold to create a new vessel that shows its history and scars.
“According to the philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise,” Bergsma said in a statement. “In these works, it is as if the natural elements reshape these old cultural remains from our civilization.”