One current exhibition that is certainly well worth a visit to is one that is devoted entirely to building bricks most of us would have been familiar with from our childhoods. ‘The Art of The Brick’ at the ArtScience Museum which opened on 17 November 2012 and will run until 14 April 2013, takes visitors into the world of 39 year old Nathan Sawaya, whose life-long obsession with Lego building bricks has seen him abandon his job as an attorney to devote himself to the ‘art of the brick’.
I was provided with the opportunity to visit the exhibition recently by good people of the ArtScience Museum. The visit provided me not only with the opportunity to see the artist’s work, but also step into the artist’s own world seen through some of his work which includes both representative brick sculptures as well as one which explore surrealist themes in what is some of the more fascinating pieces. Sawaya’s obsession with what is indeed a very popular and timeless toy we were told began at the age of five. Not being able to get that pet dog he had wanted, Sawaya did the next best thing – he dismantled his Lego city brick set and built a dog with it which he named Boxer.
Sawaya decided to turn what had in his working years become a means to blow off steam. It was when he realised that his sharing of his hobby on his website brickartist.com was receiving quite a fair bit of attention that he decided to dedicate his life to being a ‘brick artist’ first joining Lego before setting up his own art gallery in New York City.
The 52 large-scale brick pieces at the exhibition are displayed across eight galleries. In the first gallery, we are introduced to the artist himself, with several pieces through which Sawaya reveals some of his personal take on himself. The gallery includes several ‘iconic’ pieces including ‘Yellow’ and ‘Swimmer’. My personal favourite among the works in the gallery is Yellow which depicts a human torso tearing its chest open. Thousands of toy bricks can be seen to spill out from the gap. The work represents the artist’s personal metamorphosis and transitions and is said to capture his emotional journey in which the artist opened himself up to the world.
The seven other galleries are no less interesting. The next one we come to is the Catwalk Gallery where works are displayed on a runway like platform. Works here that caught my eye were Circle, Triangle, Square and Everlasting. Another interesting gallery is the Portrait Gallery, where there are some familiar faces in 2D – all made again from Lego bricks which I thought was rather amazing. Among the portraits are those of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin. What is interesting to learn about is the approach that the artist takes when creating a 2D portrait is that he starts off with the eyes – after which he says everything falls into place. The choice of colour is also important we are told. Sawaya, despite his talent in creating 2D likenesses of famous personalities with Lego bricks, we are also told, does not like to take on commercial commissions for 2D portraits for fear that he may offend clients should the work not come out right.
Another gallery which I did take my time to look at was The Emotion Box which has pieces all of which seemed to have a deeper meaning in them. Stepping into the gallery one encounters works that are mesmerisingly fascinating such as Mask, Ascension, Grasp and Trapped. There certainly are deeper meanings that one will discover in the works. Ascension depicts the artists desire to ascend to a higher place without experiencing death, whereas, Grasp refers to the many people telling the artist ‘no’ – people he would like to rid his life of.
One work that will certainly impress is a six metre long one – a T-Rex skeleton at the Art of Play. The last gallery is where you will find a brick sculpture of a familiar sight – that of the ArtScience Museum itself. The piece was specially commissioned by the ArtScience Museum and was created without the artist having actually visited the museum, and purely from 2D images.
The exhibition also has several areas which allow visitor interaction, including light and sound displays, a photobooth, a Play and Build area and an area where visitors can attempt to recreate Sawaya’s rain. The exhibtion is open from 10 am to 10 pm daily (last entry is at 9 pm). More information on the exhibition and ticket prices can be found at the ArtScience Museum’s website.