patrick bergsma's broken ceramic vases & crafted bonsai trees explore our bond with nature

In Patrick Bergsma’s ‘Expanding China’ series, handcrafted bonsai trees made of coconut fiber, polymers, kaolin, and quartz grow out of antique ceramic vases until they break their homes into shards. An allusion to the infinite and ever-growing force of nature, Patrick Bergsma explores the relationship between people and their environment. The fragile porcelain hints at humans’ fragility against the unfathomable and often incalculable prowess of nature. Regardless of advanced technologies aiming to predict its movement, it still finds its way to break out of its pattern.

Shards of broken ceramic vases topple over each other and cling onto the strengthening branches of the handmade bonsai trees, their limits to contain the gift of the Earth folding. ‘Nature will survive. This is the basic meaning of my recent work. I once read an inspiring story about the origin of bonsai. Ages ago, Chinese monks would take small old gnarly trees that could barely survive, back from the mountains to their monastery in order to meditate about the power of nature. It is that adaptability and resilience of nature that gives me hope,’ Patrick Bergsma tells designboom in an interview. ‘No matter what mess we make of this planet, nature will survive.’ Stoneware Ceramics

patrick bergsma's broken ceramic vases & crafted bonsai trees explore our bond with nature

header: Apple Blossom, 2021 | image: Royal White Pine, 2023 | images courtesy of Patrick Bergsma

Patrick Bergsma shares with designboom that making his sculptures for ‘Expanding China’ can be time-consuming. The Dutch artist begins by sourcing his porcelain and ceramic vases from antique dealers. Either they look for him, or he looks for them. Whichever way, he ends up with a handful of vases to work with. ‘There is not one way how I get to the final result. Sometimes, I try to imagine what it would be like if I were a tree growing out of that vase or vases. Other times, I get an idea from the decoration of the vase. Even the way the porcelain breaks can give me inspiration on how to continue,’ he explains to designboom.

The bonsai trees follow suit as Patrick Bergsma makes their base using aluminum wire. ‘I have developed my mixture to imitate the bark, flowers, and foliage. All of that is painstakingly handmade and one by one attached to the tree. Then, I make the moss, which is also handmade using different types of acrylics. All of this is sustainable and lightfast,’ he reveals to designboom. Contrast plays in the way the handcrafted bonsai trees pierce the once-whole ceramic vases. The earthy and fleshy texture of the trees forms a harmonious visual appeal with the glossy and polished surface of the vases.

Drawn from its name, ‘Expanding China’ borrows the ancient Asian arts of Ikebana, bonsai, and Penjing (the art of forming a landscape in a pot). In a statement, Patrick Bergsma shares that the Hollandese tradition of ceramics is influenced by the East. What may be typically Dutch, like Delft blue, was originally an attempt to imitate the popular porcelain imported from China and Japan. Yet in his broken-vases series, he puts his spin on the consort of artistic influences, methods, and objects.

The reference to the Japanese art of mending, kintsugi, may come through too. In Patrick Bergsma’s way, it surfaces as the shards of ceramics are mounted or hung onto the bodies of the bonsai trees, at times even just completely glued to their trunks and branches. When designboom asked the Dutch artist about people’s relationship with nature, his words circle back to the roots of his ‘Expanding China’ series. ‘The funny thing about our relationship with nature is our mistake that somehow we think they are two things: us and nature,’ he tells designboom. It never is, he implies, as people’s lives are entangled with nature’s.

patrick bergsma's broken ceramic vases & crafted bonsai trees explore our bond with nature

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