Bertjan Pot’s latest lighting and mask creations, currently on display at the Patrick Parrish gallery in New York are animated creations masquerading as characters that display different emotions through their exaggerated visages. Crafted out of rope, dried grass and other commonly found materials, these showcases make up ‘Lights & Masks’, Pot’s first solo exhibition in the United States. The exhibition demonstrates the Dutch designer’s fascination for colours, patterns and structures. “Although seemingly these masks tell stories, they started out as a material experiment,” says Pot, explaining how he initiates most of his projects.
Pot, who hails from The Netherlands, is an industrial designer who experiments with easily available materials to weave out objects that are characterised by a unique and fascinating mix of colours, patterns and textures. With the intention of pushing the well set boundaries of materials, art and design, he juxtaposes non-linear features against each other to give form to original pieces that evince his unique style. In a career spanning more than two decades, he has consistently experimented with materials to create both utilitarian objects like lamps, chairs, benches and other furniture items, as well artistically expressive totems, decorative products and bizarre wearable items. ‘Lights and Masks’ not only enunciates Pot’s ability to shift between the roles of a designer and an artist, but also serves as a presentation of his experimentations and explorations.
Like most of his previous works, Pot allowed his curiosity to shape the masks and lights displayed at the American gallery. While the Crafty Lights luminaires, although ornamental, can be used as bespoke lighting pieces in interior spaces, the Rope Masks and Grass Masks are mainly artistic creations with exaggerated features and no pragmatic use. The masks, thus, serve as exhibitory offerings that highlight stories and emotions, encapsulate the designer’s unique process and revive the viewer’s interest in subjective creations that can hold many different meanings and elicit many different responses.
The three different categories under which Pot categories these latest works are ‘Rope Masks’, ‘Grass Masks’ and ‘Crafty Lights’. Rope Masks are the result of an 11-year-old project of experimentation with the material. It began without any forethought. Pot simply began to stitch a rope together to see if it would end up becoming a flat carpet. But, instead of staying flat, it took on the shape of a curve, and, thus, the idea of creating masks using ropes was born. Over the years, Pot has created different variances of the mask: while the initial prototypes could be used as decorative wall hangings, the latest of the lot are wearable versions of the same. When placed over the head of a person, the masks grant them a new personality, while also adding an extra layer of dynamism in these pieces.
The Grass Masks, while similar in appearance and function to the Rope Masks, are made out of the organic material, grass, which is sowed and harvested by Pot himself. Despite the limitations posed when harvesting grass on his own, Pot has used the material well to weave out masks that emulate different human expressions and emotions.
Pot’s luminaire series, namely Crafty Lights, are an attempt to create everyday product designs that subvert the hardness associated with most industrially produced items. By using softer materials and letting his flaws and sloppiness become an integral part of the luminaires, Pot creates truly distinct pieces. He also does not commit to any specific technique or tools, thus leaving a lot of scope and space for spontaneous additions. These organically crafted pieces, are thus, a sum total of the artist’s preconceived ideas and impromptu decisions.
Bertjan Pot’s exhibition ‘Lights & Masks’ will remain on display from 13 May to 30 June 2022 at Patrick Parrish Gallery in New York.