Nathan Sayawa trained and worked as a lawyer in New York until 2004 when he left his job to become a Lego Artist. Yes, Lego – the colourful building blocks children around the world play with during their childhood.
Since beginning his career creating three-dimensional structures and mosaics using Lego bricks, Nathan has won many awards and currently has two books published! He is a perfect example of someone following their dreams and achieving them through hard work and passion.
Just a few minutes from Waterloo Station, right by the Southbank is Sayawa’s latest exhibition: The Art Of The Brick: DC Super Heroes. It is brilliant and at times truly breathtaking.
The first sculpture you’re faced with is called Yellow. The freeing act of opening yourself up and releasing emotions that may have been bottled up to the world or even yourself is a reason, he believes, that it is very popular among adults. A sculpture I particularly liked was Building Batman. Sawaya describes Batman as being the only super hero that literally built himself into what he is whereas, all other DC heroes have genetic powers or machinery on their side. Batman, as a mere mortal, is perhaps the greatest due to his ‘noble aspirations’. Yellow was built using 11,014 bricks and Building Batman was built using 6,005 bricks.
Sawaya’s impressive body of work that was on display included many comic book covers, some with sculptures to really bring the covers to life including the one above. Action Comics #1 was created using an astonishing 29,631 Lego bricks.
The next room – Constructing A Hero – provided visitors with a different take on Sawaya’s work which displayed his take on cubism. I really liked this room as you were forced to view the pieces in a different way – it was very much like being in an art museum. Visitors were standing back and tilting their heads to work out who each hero was. They were also taking steps back to get the full effect of the pieces.
Can you work out who is who? If you’re struggling with the bottom-middle one it is because that caped hero is actually a representation of you! Made with 6,670 Lego bricks Hero Within is considered by the artist as ‘the soul of the exhibition’. He asks you to look within yourself and rediscover your childhood dreams and work to make them a reality; whether that be following your career dreams, dedicating your life to others or even just working on doing one selfless thing everyday. All are as noble as each other and all are achievable. Sawaya left his job as a lawyer and has never looked back and has since brought joy to many people, young and old.
One of the most striking pieces was Batman: Dark Grey. Using 22,024 Lego bricks, Sawaya explains one of the reasons he chose to use grey was because it is…
‘the defining colour of Batman. He’s a character who walks a fine line between right and wrong, just like the colour grey walks a fine line between black and white.’
The sculpture shows the DC Hero in a powerful position. It almost seems as if he is considering his next move or is in deep thought about his inner deamons. Whilst previously not being one of my favourite heroes, Sawaya has shown me the deeper side to Batman – he is human and has external as well as internal battles to face just like all of us.
As the exhibition continued, the work became more sinister as villains from the comics were introduced. One villain that appeared many times was none other than Batman’s nemesis, The Joker.
Joker Facemask was built using 11,756 Lego bricks. Sawaya describes its creation in greater detail;
‘This took just under 100 hours to complete. I wanted the pure evil of the Joker to come through. Notice the jaundiced yellow of the eyes, the yellow of the teeth. I see this as a combination of all the great Jokers in DC History.’
This Lego poster below is called The Killing Joke, the name given to the original comic it was based on. I really liked the Lego posters because of the facial detail the artist could show. Just like a drawing or painting the point of light is important to capture so to make the image lifelike.
There are countless pieces in the exhibition that amazed me. Goddess Of Truth is a mosaic piece created by another artist, Brandon Griffith who used 15,567 bricks. Just below that, Sawaya’s Blue Superman was built with 28,397 bricks. He explains that the hardest part was, unsurprisingly, the cape due to it having to cover Superman’s back and appear to be blowing in the wind. Streak shows the Flash’s super speed (many times faster than the speed of light) that he is famous for. A simple and perfectly effective way to demonstrate what this hero is all about. 21,573 Lego bricks went into the making of this.
The sculptures are all faceless. Why is that? Part of the reason is perhaps because building facial features into a ‘life-size’ sculpture is near impossible as the faces do not offer Sawaya enough space to explore their unique features. However, I think Nathan Sawaya wants visitors to his exhibition to project their own face onto the heroes. Reflecting the meaning behind the Hero Within, we can all be super heroes in our own way and we should strive to be the best person we can be.
It is important to appreciate that Sawaya did not change the Lego bricks he used. The shapes, sizes and colours are exactly the same as the ones you can buy. For me, this makes his works all the more incredible. His talent and patience knows no bounds! If you have a chance to visit the show – do! It closes on the 10th of September and is really not to be missed!
*The featured image shows the Cowl Collection made of 440 bricks each.