Written by 8:20 AM news, project, sculpture

The “strawberry sculptures” AELBWARTS, NABEKIESAV and NABEKIARTS

Studio Nick Ervinck

The three “strawberry sculptures” AELBWARTS, NABEKIESAV and NABEKIARTS are the result of an exchange between Nick Ervinck and Dr A.P.M. Ton den Nijs, a scientist at the Plant Breeding Department of Wageningen University. This department holds a patent for the cultivation of a genetically manipulated variety of strawberry. Using the plant’s own DNA, the researchers developed a new strawberry variety that is resistant to fruit rot. It requires fewer pesticides and has a longer shelf life than a natural strawberry.

The influence of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, is very evident in NABEKIARTS. In this traditional art form, the vase, stems and leaves are as much a part of the composition as the flowers. The focus is more on the shape and the lines than on the colours or the flowers themselves. Each arrangement must also include stems that symbolise heaven, earth and humanity.


The third source of inspiration for these works was a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There, Ervinck saw a display of 18th century Meissen vases that were illustrated with an allegorical depiction of the four seasons. These flamboyant vases are lavishly decorated with plants, animals and creatures that can seem more beautiful than their originals in the natural world. While this porcelain is a testament to great craftsmanship, it also has an absurd side: a combination that Ervinck strongly admires. While Rococo and Baroque are not styles that many people enjoy today, these artistic forms of plant mutation are an ode to the aspirations of that generation of sculptors. With AELBWARTS, NABEKIESAV and NABEKIARTS, Ervinck investigates how he can use today’s techniques to transcend or continue the craftsmanship of the past. His 3D prints are also the result of meticulous craftsmanship. Parts that are 3D printed are painted by hand: a process that requires patience and precision. Ervinck’s work reinvents classical sculpture through a cross-fertilisation between innovation and tradition and does so in a purely contemporary context.


AELBWARTS is the modern version of the tradtional still life with fruit. In the seventeenth century, strawberries stood for humbleness because they grow low at the ground. This futuristic example stands miles away from humbleness. Proud it reaches for the sky combining the elegance of the leafs with the heavy blob form of the strawberry. This sculpture questions the status of the organic in the 21th century. Fruit and plants are being manipulated to better meet our standards or just to experiment. At universities people are envestiganting full time on the strawberry.

As a sculptor, I have one foot firmly planted in the digital world. This means that I do not only use the computer as an instrument, but that the digital logic largely determines my artistic thought and method as well. By pushing boundaries and experimenting with the latest (software) techniques, I try to create complex forms that were unthinkable before.Nick Ervinck
With NABEKIESAV, this hybridisation process is carried to the extreme. The leaves of the strawberry plant gradually change colour. A utopian, almost surreal strawberry seems to grow from the vase and be held together by a skeleton. The vase seems about to spring into life. Viewed from the side, the support does not seem static but to have movement, as though it was the legs of a woman in a skirt. Ervinck sets out to create the illusion that his sculptures may suddenly come to life.


As always, the artist tries to create an openness that will attract the viewer to consider his work from different angles. NABEKIESAV has both a poetic and a critical social dimension. On the one hand, the sculptural contradictions, such as inside/outside and rough/smooth, make this work purely poetic. The visual language has a surprising impact. The sculpture resembles a horned demon emerging from its cave. NABEKIESAV could be described as a poem manifested in physical form. On the other hand, this work questions how far we can or should go in manipulating food. Will we be able to create our own food in the future?

Thanks to the 3D printer we are even able to print our own designed food. It intrigues me as an artist that we can manipulate and personalize food as if it were our little personal artworks. I am fascinated by the future and the possibility that children might create their toys out of a mix of artificial, biological and robotic elements while their parents prepare their meal with yellow strawberries. I tried to capture a moment of flux. The movement doesn’t look purely organic though, the strawberry seems to mutate from the natural leaves to the artificial skeleton. These kind of skeletons I used before in sculptures as SNIBURTAD and ELBEETAD.

Instead of being the internal support structure (endoskeleton), the skeleton is situated outside of the body tissue (exoskeleton). AELBWARTS combines three different textures. The strawberry refers to the blob architecture, introduced by the architect Greg Lynn in 1995. These blob forms, which look organic and mobile, are the result of a computer-based designing process. This architectural movement pleas for a removal of linear, rigid structures and aims at creating expanding, bulging and growing shapes. The strawberry seems to slowly collapse under his own weight. The roots that seems to come out of the fruit are inspired by whimsical structures of rocks manipulated by water and the sculptures of Henry Moore. The skeleton seems to hold the sculpture together en push the strawberry in it’s place. The leafs are a traditional element in classic sculpture and architecture.

Most sculptures created with digital technologies seem to emphasize the artificial part of the sculpture. I’m more interested in this tension between the digital and the real. Even as a 3D print AELBWARTS is in the first place a sculpture. The form couldn’t be created without 3D printing but the painting process was completely done by hand.

Fostering a cross-pollination between the digital and the physical, Nick Ervinck (°1981, Belgium) explores the boundaries between various media.

Studio Nick Ervinck applies tools and techniques from new media, in order to explore the aesthetic potential of sculpture, 3D prints installation, architecture and design. Through his divergent practice, a strong fascination with the construction of space is noticeable.

Not only does Nick Ervinck focus on the autonomous sculptural object, he also questions its spatial positioning and points to the phenomenological experience and embodiment of space. Ervinck’s work in short oscillates between the static and the dynamic, prospecting new virtual or utopian territories.

Nick Ervinck creates huge installations, sculptures, prints, work drawings and animated films. For several years he participated in many individual projects and group shows. Recently he showed work at Ars Electronica Linz, CBK Emmen, Beelden aan Zee Den Haag, Bozar Brussels and LABoral Gijon. His work has been exhibited at MOCA Shanghai, MARTA Herford, Kunstverein Ahlen, Koraalberg Antwerp, Zebrastraat Ghent, HISK Ghent, Odette Ostend, Superstories Hasselt, Brakke Grond Amsterdam, MAMA Rotterdam and Telic Art Exchange Los Angeles/Berlin.

In 2005, he received the Godecharle prize for Sculpture, to be followed by the Mais prize of the City of Brussels and the Prize for Visual Art of West-Flanders in 2006. In 2008, Ervinck was a laureate of the Rodenbach Fonds  Award, and he won the audience award for new media at Foundation Liedts-Meesen.

Studio Nick Ervinck
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