The art of the brick

SHOREDITCH, LONDON – I was interested to see the ‘Art of the Brick’ exhibition in Shoreditch earlier this year after seeing several posters on the London underground with this image on it.

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I was really intrigued at how someone could create such striking images with LEGO bricks that were playful but also beautiful.

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The artist is New Yorker Nathan Sawaya a former attorney and the first artist to take LEGO into the art world. He worked for LEGO for six months as a LEGO artist starting in 2004 and then left to open his own art studio in the same year.

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He’s been so successful that  he’s turned the hobby into a full time job and gets exhibited around the world.

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This exhibition has been exceptionally popular in London and as it involves LEGO, it attracts a lot of kids and families… if you want to experience this exhibit in quiet go during kid unfriendly hours.

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Although I must say, I think a lot of the children get excited after seeing this exhibition as they realise what potential there is in a little LEGO brick. And so after you leave the gallery area, you pass through the gift shop which has plenty of LEGO to simply play with or purchase.

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And in case you’re wondering why he uses LEGO, here’s what Nathan Sawaya had to say: “I like using LEGO bricks as a medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reaction to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. …My goal is to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before. I also appreciate the cleanliness of the LEGO® brick. The right angles. The distinct lines. But, from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines offer new perspectives, changing to curves.” 

The Art of the Brick exhibit is open until April 2015 so there’s still time to check it out.

What’s another unusual medium for art? Can you recommend any other art exhibits in London?

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Out and about in Paris, France

PARIS, FRANCE – Just got back from a four day whirlwind tour of Paris. It was my first time to the city of lights and I loved it.

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Most of the trip was spent hitting the major sights so it’s no wonder that I came back to London without having spent much.

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I decided early on that I couldn’t leave Paris without a trip to the Musee d’Orsay. It sits on the banks of the River Seine and is easily accessible by the Paris metro. It is housed in what was once a railway station and has gorgeous clocks on the inside and outside.

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After purchasing a ticket for 9.5 euros, you can check your handbag, coat and small luggage in at the cloakroom (in fact, they insist that you do). I spent about 4,5 hours walking around the Musee marvelling at the extensive collections. The entire fifth floor is all about Impressionism and so there is something of a crowd there, but at this time of year it wasn’t too bad. 

There are also many works by Vincent Van Gogh. Apparently he did several self portraits as he couldn’t afford to pay a model. I saw one of them up close. You can really get a glimpse of the mental anguish he experienced just by looking into his eyes. It’s unfortunate he never lived to experience his success.

I loved seeing the paintings by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. I first learnt about him in my teens when I saw a film on TV one day that was a biography of his life. He was born into wealth, but chose to live in Montmarte where several artists lived. He is now well known for capturing the life of the performers and patrons of the Moulin Rouge.

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I left the Musee at around 4:30pm but there were still crowds of people waiting to get inside. I recommend getting there as early as possible and make sure you wear comfy shoes. You aren’t allowed to take food inside or eat in the galleries but there are a few restaurants and cafes inside. Also, pay 5 euros for the audio guide. It makes the entire experience more interesting and informative. It’s easy to just drift past paintings and not learn anything new. 

By the way I did head to the Louvre but only had 2 hours to peruse the work there. I’d still say that the Musee D’Orsay is my preferred art museum in Paris, so far. Have you been to both? Which did you like better?

Weekend roundup

SOUTHBANK, LONDON – When the sun comes out,there are so many ways to enjoy the Southbank.

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The highlight of my weekend was the Lichtenstein exhibit at the Tate Modern gallery in London. It cost £15.50 per adult to attend and a further £3.50 for the audio guide which I highly recommend.

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Plenty of people attended the art exhibition to see 125 of Roy Lichtenstein’s most definitive work. I’m sure you’re familiar with his stuff. It mimics comic strips and also has his signature benday dots. Here’s a clear summary from the Tate website:

The artist’s rich and expansive practice is represented by a wide range of materials, including paintings on Rowlux and steel, as well sculptures in ceramic and brass and a selection of previously unseen drawings, collages and works on paper.

Room after room pays tribute to his extraordinary oeuvre, celebrating the visual power and intellectual rigour of Roy Lichtenstein’s work. 

The exhibit finishes in late May, so best to get a ticket now so that you don’t miss out.

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Recommend any other art exhibits in London?

Manet at the Royal Academy of Arts

LONDON - One of the great things about London is the art museums. There are plenty of them and they provide opportunities for you to get some culture, even if like me, you don’t always understand what the art is saying. I highly recommend the Tate and National Portrait Gallery. Both are free to the public. I recently went to the Royal Academy of Art to see the Manet: Portraying Life exhibition which has been a huge success with the public.

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Tickets are £15 but you should also pay for the headphones which costs £4. Sure you can walk through the gallery and read about the exhibition, but the recording offers insight from the curator of the exhibition as well as commentary from a few other art pundits.

You know the other thing about exhibitions is the viewer. The trip to the Royal Academy felt like such a civilised affair. It was quiet although busy. No children in sight. Plenty of tweed and men in silk scarves.

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I certainly came away from the experience with a greater appreciation for Manet. Did you know that he was born into a prosperous family? He didn’t have to live by his art and this gave him some freedom to choose his subjects and his own style irrespective of convention.

I thought it was very interesting that his portraiture collection coincided with the coming of age of the photography. He even sat for his own photographic portrait and compiled a family album.

But another interesting fact is that he married a Dutch woman , Suzanne Leenhoff (in 1863), who had an illegitimate son (born in 1852) with an ‘unknown’ father. She came to Manet’s home in 1849 in order to teach his two younger brothers the piano. They became lovers, of course, and she became pregnant. BUT!! And this is the very French part of the story, it is rumoured, that Manet’s father, Auguste, was possibly the father of Suzanne’s son Leon…

I loved Manet’s use of swathes of black. A great example is his painting, Berthe Morisot (top left), which has now become the face of this exhibition.

Paul's Collage1It’s funny, after all that French culture, I decided to head to my favourite French cafe, Paul’s, for a cup of hot chocolate. It’s the best in London. You know, this was a great way to spend a morning in London.