An epic eight-metre long sculpture made from thousands of fragments of porcelain has gone on display this winter at the Harley Gallery
on the ducal Welbeck estate on the Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire border.
Running from 4 November 2017 to 7 January 2018 and created by the renowned ceramic artist Bouke de Vries, War and Pieces is in the form of a traditional table centrepiece; centred around a nuclear explosion.
Battle scenes rage across this field of shards, fought by figures in classical armour. Closer inspection reveals that de Vries has brought his work up to date by grafting colourful plastic cyber limbs and weaponry onto the white figurines from of the past. Meanwhile, the mushroom cloud is a vortex of porcelain objects of all sorts including crucified Christs and Chinese goddesses of mercy, watching over the death and destruction.
De Vries took his inspiration from the tradition of grand banquets and balls held on the eve of battle such as the Duchess of Richmonds famous ball for the Duke of Wellington before Waterloo, as well as the 17th century custom of decorating banqueting tables with extravagant sugar sculptures. Replaced by porcelain in the 18th century, such displays were designed to demonstrate wealth and taste. War and Pieces is a contemporary response in which de Vries uses humour and beauty to examine war, chaos and aggression.
This war banquet is a battle royal between ancien regime sugar and revolutionary porcelain. The non-biodegradable plastic and the mushroom cloud bring the historical aspects of the installation to modern times; its about the increasing toxicity of war and its continuing impact on our lives, says de Vries.
Born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Bouke de Vries studied at the Design Academy, Eindhoven and Central St Martins, London. After working with John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Zandra Rhodes he switched careers and studied ceramics conservation and restoration. His work explores contradictions around perfection and worth; and his artworks reclaim broken pots after their accidental trauma - he calls it the beauty of destruction. He reconstructs the broken pieces to give them new virtues, new values and to move their stories forward.