Friday 2 January 2015

The Art of the Brick Exhibition, Old Truman Brewery, Loading Bay, Ely’s Yard, Hanbury Street, East London

Featuring more than one hundred sculptures made from more than one million Lego bricks, the Art of the Brick Exhibition (adult tickets start at £14.60) will captivate grown-ups and kids alike. Nathan Sawaya’s first wave of sculptures are inspired by works of art. He has used tens of thousands of grey bricks to painstakingly reproduce everything from Roman statues to contemporary paintings, such as The Scream, which is represented by a kaleidoscope of brightly colour tiles in both 2D and 3D. The next set of exhibits are models of seemingly random objects, such as a massive pencil writing the word "yes", giant chess pieces, a surprisingly curvaceous red apple, the planets of the solar system balanced on top of each other and even a cello, which looks like it could play a tune. The third phase of the exhibition turns a little darker, with a series of angst-ridden monochrome sculptures examining the human condition. These models include a very blue swimmer with limbs and lego water protruding from a piece of glass and the widely-advertised statute of a yellow man ripping his chest open. Many of these psychoanalytical  sculptures are either cracking up or missing key body parts, neatly capturing the modern-day struggle to hold it all together in an increasingly frantic world.

The exhibition then lightens up again, artfully depicting photographs, images and optical illusions in lego, before dedicating an entire room to an atmospherically-lit lego skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex with a lengthy tail: a real feat of engineering. The final room of the exhibition is dedicated to Great Britain, featuring a fittingly sterile and static model of One Direction (!) and a more evocative one of The Beatles playing guitars. There is also a life-size red telephone box, complete with a telephone keypad and chord - all built in lego. As you move through the exhibition, there are screens telling you  how many pieces were used in each sculpture, together with the occasional video showing how they were built - Sawaya makes ample use of glue, suggesting he plans each model carefully in advance. At the end of the exhibition, there is a room with trays full of lego where you can start work on your own piece of art. Unfortunately, kids might be distracted by the arcade-style machines, featuring lego-style video games. Even so, you should leave inspired by what a lot of patience and lot of lego can achieve. 8/10