I love LEGO. As well as being a brilliant channel for creativity in young children, people are finding more and more interesting ways to work with it.
Take New York artist Nathan Sawaya, his show The Art of the Brick has been exhibited in galleries all across America. It’s the only one of its kind in the world, and all the art has been built using only LEGO.
It was listed by CNN as one of its top 12 must-see exhibitions. I caught up with Nathan to find out a bit more about his passion for small bricks.
Did you play with LEGO as a child?
Yes, in fact when I was ten years old I asked my parents about getting a dog. When they said no, I used my LEGO bricks to build my own life-size LEGO dog. It was one of my first “a-ha” moments when I realized that anything can be created from LEGO bricks.
How did you get into using LEGO as a material for your art?
I had been sculpting out of more traditional media like clay and wire. A few years ago, I challenged myself to create a large scale sculpture using this toy from my childhood. It got a good response so I began creating more and more pieces using only LEGO bricks as my medium. Soon I had a website, brickartist.com, and I was getting commissions from around the world.
Are the pieces totally made out of Lego?
Yes, I use the standard LEGO bricks that I had as a child. They are in the same colors and sizes that you can still buy at a toy store. I like using the rectangular pieces for most of my artwork and appreciate the cleanliness of the medium. The right angles. The distinct lines.
As so often in life, it is a matter of perspective. Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive. But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves.
What is your fav piece of LEGO art?
My favorite LEGO sculpture is always the next one.
What piece took you the longest to make?
I worked on a T-Rex skeleton that measures twenty feet long. It took an entire summer to create. It is currently on tour in Australia as part of my touring Art of the Brick Exhibition.
What is the weirdest thing you have been asked to make?
I was once asked to make a life size nude woman with the head of a cat. I passed on the project, but I have taken on some interesting commissions. I made a giant bumble bee that a groom commissioned for his bride as a wedding gift. I also did an entire billboard out of LEGO bricks. It measured 53 feet long and 15 feet high, and used over 500,000 individual LEGO pieces.
What do you think is so special about Lego?
For me, LEGO is a creative medium. I can create whatever I can think of. I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. Everyone can relate to it since it is a toy that many children have at home. I want to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before.
Some facts about LEGO
1 Every year, approx 19 billion LEGO bricks are made, enough to go around the planet 5 times.
2 The worlds largest Lego Tower was 94.3 ft (28.7 m) tall and made using 465,000 bricks.
3 LEGO is an abbreviation of the two Danish words “leg + godt”, meaning “play well”.
4 There are 62 times more LEGO bricks on earth than people.
5 There are 915 million ways to combine six LEGO bricks.
You can see more of Nathan’s amazing work on his website www.brickartist.com
‘The Art of the Brick’ is currently touring Australia, and can currently been see at the Town Hall in Sydney until Feb 5th.