This week, ‘One World News’ brings to you a New York-based artist named Nathan Sawaya, who creates awe-inspiring works of art out of some of the most unlikely things. His recent exhibitions feature large-scale sculptures using only toy building blocks. A full time independent artist, he puts up his shows in galleries in New York, Miami and Maui. His art form is primarily in 3-dimensional sculptures and oversized portraits.
How did the idea to design items out of bricks strike to you?
LEGO bricks let me create anything I imagine. They are a great medium for art because I can use them to build my ideas. I opted for this as it was unique and no one else has taken this toy into art museums and galleries. So, one day I just pulled out my old LEGO bricks and build a giant replica of my own face. It got a good response and I enjoyed making it and in this way, I created more sculptures.
How many items have you designed so far?
I have been using LEGO bricks to create artworks for almost ten years now. I have multiple art exhibitions touring the globe. Each exhibition of the art of the brick contains numerous sculptures. So in total, I do not know the exact amount but hundreds of sculptures.
What is the method or equipment used?
It starts with inspiration. I want my art to captivate people for as long as it can keep their attention. Once I am inspired, I draw out my idea. I always carry my sketch pad so that I can draw out my ideas as they come to me. Before I start building, I try and plan out as much as possible. I envision in my mind what the finished sculpture will look like before I put down that first brick. As I start building, I actually glue the bricks together as I go. If I make a mistake, I am equally good with a hammer and chisel. Once the sculpture looks the way I had envisioned it, I know that I am done.
Why only ‘LEGO’ Bricks?
I guess, it is a matter of perspective. I find the shape of the brick as distinctive but from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves. That is what drew me to the brick.
From where do you arrange these bricks?
At this point, I have over four million LEGO bricks in my art studios, all arranged by shape and color.
I usually have two to three projects going on at once. I switch onto the other project depending on my time or deadline.
Where do you derive your inspiration from?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. Many of my works focus on the principle of how everyday life, people and their emotions are linked closely. Often my art is a re-enactment of my personal feelings. I am inspired by my own experiences and the journeys I am taking. I also try and express my emotions through my art. I also take inspiration from the different places I travel, the different cultures I experience and the different people I meet.
Did any of your childhood games made you take up this career?
I had LEGO bricks when I was growing up. When I was small, I asked my parents if I could get a pet dog, and when they did not agree, I created a life-size dog for myself out of LEGO bricks. It was an early turning point in my art career.
What other items are you planning to create in future?
I have an exhibition currently in New York and will be opening an exhibition in London in September. I am always creating new things to add to the exhibitions but it is not unveiled until I am ready. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram at @nathansawaya if you want a preview of what I am working on.
How many countries have you put up your exhibitions in?
I have shared my artwork in multiple countries all over the world, including Australia, China, Canada, Belgium, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, US and many more.
How was the first public response?
The response has been great. I really enjoyed seeing people’s reactions to my art for the first time. Everyone has snapped a few LEGO bricks together, so there is this familiarity that permits them to relate to my art on a different level. My favorite thing about using LEGO bricks is seeing someone being inspired by my artwork to go and pick up a few bricks and start creating on their own.
Any award or title which you have received so far?
Yes, there have been awards along the way, but that is not why I create art.
What message you want to give through your work?
I wanted to take this simple childhood toy to a place it has never been before, that is, into the contemporary art galleries and museums. When people visit a museum, they can appreciate a marble statue but most people do not have a slab of marble at home they can chip away at. So, my hope is that my art inspires people to go home and be creative. Art is important, it is a necessary part of life and by being creative we open our minds up to so many different possibilities and in fact, it is proven to help people with their academic pursuits. That is was drives me, creating accessible contemporary art, putting up an exhibition that will invite people who have never been to a gallery before to experience art.
Any exposure to art is going to make you creative and expressive. I am proud of a lot of things I have accomplished as the only artist using this unusual medium but I am proud of the fact that millions of kids have walked into art museums, who might not have ever gone to a museum before. They came to see LEGO but were exposed to the art world.
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