Patrick Bergsma, a Dutch artist, explores the relationship between humans and nature in his latest series, ‘Expanding China.’ In this series, he creates handcrafted bonsai trees using materials like coconut fiber, polymers, kaolin, and quartz. These trees grow out of antique ceramic vases until they eventually break the vases into shards. Bergsma’s artwork alludes to the infinite and ever-growing force of nature, highlighting the fragility of humans against its immense power.
The broken ceramic vases symbolize humans’ limits in containing the gift of the Earth, as the shards topple over each other and cling to the growing branches of the bonsai trees. Despite advanced technologies aiming to predict and control nature’s movements, it continually finds a way to break free from patterns.
Bergsma draws inspiration from the adaptability and resilience of nature, with the bonsai trees symbolizing its ability to survive and thrive. The artist shares that the origin of bonsai, according to an inspiring story he read, involved Chinese monks bringing old trees back to their monastery to meditate on the power of nature. This adaptability and resilience give Bergsma hope, as he believes that no matter what mess humans make of the planet, nature will endure and survive.
Creating the sculptures for ‘Expanding China’ is a time-consuming process for Bergsma. He sources porcelain and ceramic vases from antique dealers, sometimes imagining himself as a tree growing out of the vase or drawing inspiration from its decoration or the way the porcelain breaks. The handmade bonsai trees are made using aluminum wire, with each bark, flower, and foliage meticulously crafted and attached to the tree. The moss is also handmade using different types of acrylics, ensuring sustainability and long-lasting quality. The contrasting textures of the trees and the polished vases create a visually harmonious effect.
‘Expanding China’ draws from ancient Asian arts such as Ikebana, bonsai, and Penjing, along with the Dutch tradition of ceramics influenced by the East. Bergsma adds his own twist to these influences, methods, and objects through his broken-vases series. References to the Japanese art of mending, kintsugi, can be seen as the shards of ceramics are mounted or glued onto the bonsai trees, symbolizing the intertwined relationship between humans and nature.
When asked about people’s relationship with nature, Bergsma emphasizes that humans and nature are not separate entities. He believes that our mistake lies in thinking of them as separate, as our lives are deeply entangled with the natural world.
In his ‘Expanding China’ series, Bergsma showcases the delicate balance between humans and nature, highlighting the power and resilience of the natural world. Through his intricate sculptures, he reminds us of our interconnectedness with the Earth and the importance of preserving and respecting its vast forces.
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