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Nathan Sawaya, Lego Artist: Is it really art?

Vishnu Varma examines Nathan Sawaya’s exhibition of Lego constructions, and asks whether it is really art, or just Lego. Or can it be both? 

I feel like a lot of people tend to find art quite daunting and confusing. I guess it’s probably because of the abstract nature of art, or at least, the media’s depiction of its apparent abstract nature, and the idea that to truly appreciate the arts you need to be the type of person that understands what the meaning of that one white paint drop on an otherwise completely blank canvas is in the Tate Modern. I feel like the ingrained ideas of what art needs to be has become a subconscious part of the lives of so many, that they refuse to try it because they’re sure that it isn’t “their thing”.

To me, art is anything we can appreciate. It is everywhere! From the amazing buildings around us, new and old, the sleek design of cars, clothes, graffiti, even video games! To me, they’re all art in their own right. But none of them seem to be as daunting as ‘real’ art because we see them everywhere, and we interact with them and we don’t feel this pressure to explain why we like them or what they mean. I think that art in galleries can be the same way. I like to think of it as being just a building where someone decided to keep their nice things. Like a large open well organized storage unit. We don’t always have to think about the intention of the artist if it doesn’t interest us. There shouldn’t be rules to how art should be appreciated, just like there aren’t rules as to what art needs to look like. Sometimes a painting of a ship is just a ship, but if it’s a darn good looking ship then I’m going to like it!

Lego 3I feel like Nathan Sawaya did an amazing job in bridging the gap between the art enthusiasts and everyone else in his exhibition, “The Art of the Brick”. He made the idea of an art exhibition much more approachable to everyone by making all of his pieces completely out of LEGO blocks. Using a simple toy that everyone knew about, he made absolutely amazing art pieces with them. It’s so easy to appreciate the works that he exhibits because we’ve all played with LEGO at some time in our lives or at the very least, seen it around, and the structures he makes seem so impossible! With just these little plastic bricks, he replicated some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in the world and then continued with his own ideas.

Nathan’s personal pieces have a depth and story to them that rivals that of any great art exhibition, but also a liveliness that I have never seen before. I went to his exhibition not too long ago (it’s in London until the 12th of April 2015), and I saw kids getting excited for an art exhibition for the first time. And right at the end of the exhibition, there was an area with LEGO bricks for the kids to play with after being in an inevitable state of awe. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t think of it as art. A lot of people don’t think Nathan’s work is ‘real’ art. But to me, art that doesn’t conform to the conventional understanding we have of it is the best there is. It pulls in everyone, from all ages and background, and hopefully it will open them up to the world of appreciating everything.

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All images by Vishnu Varma

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