If you turn the corner from Gabriel’s wharf towards the OXO Tower on London’s Southbank this week you will be greeted by the sight of one of David Hughes’ amazing LEGO sculptures. Taking centre stage in the west facing window of the OXO Gallery is his The Stuff I Didn’t See, a hunched LEGO figure that reflects on the emotional effects of depression.
This and a number of Hughes’ other pieces contribute to the collective Caiger Contemporary Art Show MEGALOPOLIS, and fulfils the promise he made to me to me last year when I interviewed him, that he wanted to take LEGO art into mainstream art spaces. It is something he has been doing for a while now, being featured at Clerkenwell Design Week in May, displaying at the Park Theatre Gallery Space in January as well as regularly turning up to the various London art fairs.
But this show is different, here for the first time his work avoids the novelty often associated with LEGO art. Rather than it being a surprise to find LEGO in a gallery, the LEGO art presents itself as a facet of a wide range of creative practices on show. Fitting in with the exhibition’s aims which declare that: ‘The world seems a bit of a divided place at the moment, so we wanted to celebrate its awesomeness and how it unifies us all.’
Sympathetically curated Hughe’s works are distributed throughout the show, with his Bowie portrait mosaic, collaboratively created at Roy’s People’s Art Fair last month, sitting between paintings and prints by more traditional artists. And in this context the work ceases to be only about its LEGO built nature and becomes something else, a work of art that just happens to have been built with bricks.
Hughes’ most recent works, the aforementioned The Stuff I Didn’t See and its sister piece Leave Me Alone, Don’t Leave Me Alone, are the stars of the show. Where he steps beyond works that chime with popular culture or express the human body, often dancers, in architectural terms, and explores the themes of mental illness, the choice of building with LEGO bricks truly attains its potential as a medium for thoughtful content. In these pieces he takes some of the aesthetic traits of more famous LEGO artists such as Nathan Sawaya, but by playfully selecting the perfect scale for brick recognition and image resolution to oscillate, achieves something more interesting. The contradictions between a sense of self and its desire for both social interaction and isolation, suggested by a piece like Leave Me Alone, Don’t Leave Me Alone, is perfectly reflected in the LEGO brick medium, which jumps between visual cohesion and a reduction to individual elements if the viewer gets too close.
The show is on till the 15 October, and is free. If you happen to be in London this weekend and want a chance to see what is happening in the world of LEGO art, a trip to the OXO Gallery is well worth the visit.