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14 COMPANY NEWS The Art of The Brick

I would think that most of the people who look at the Refractories Engineer journal will think of bricks as construction materials, whether refractories for high temperature or for civil construction. We tend to think in terms of practical application and structure and tend not to think of bricks and art in the same sentence. Some of the IRE members may be old enough to remember a controversy concerning art and bricks - at the Tate Gallery in the 1970’s. Thirty years later, there is a completely different approach to mixing bricks with art.

Nathan Sawaya aims to inspire not only those of us who work with bricks but everyone. He is an American sculptor with an exhibition (appropriately) just off Brick Lane in London. This exhibition used over 1 million bricks, that is Lego bricks. I used to make stuff with Lego when I was a child but not to this scale. There is a lifesize copy of the Venus De Milo among other well-known sculptures: this is followed by a room of paintings turned into Lego, I particularly liked the Sawaya’s version of The Scream. These works are clearly copies but inspire with the attention to detail. These works demonstrate what is possible, since we are so used to seeing pixelated images on video and photos, the sharp corners of the bricks are very familiar and reflect the art works the represent well.

There are also many pieces of his own invention, not copied from famous artists and these are some of the most thought provoking, with short descriptions of the ideas in the pieces.

A common criticism of much contemporary art is that ‘I could do better’, but with Sawaya’s works the attention to detail is very impressive and he inspires you to think ‘I could do that’. This is art at some its most accessible and at the end of the exhibition there are several trays of Lego for visitors to try their hand and make something beautiful, many visitors to the exhibition were sufficiently encouraged to try, children and adults alike.

The exhibition is on until 4 Jan 2015, and is well worth a visit.



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