Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Art Of The Brick

Last weekend I managed to get myself along to the penultimate day of the Art of the Brick exhibition showcasing the works of Lego artist Nathan Sawaya.

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It’s something we (me, the wife, and the little one) have been meaning to go to for ages and we finally got ourselves (pushchair and all!) up to the Truman Galleries off Brick Lane to see the Lego works in all their glory!

Dreams are built… one brick at a time

The whole exhibition is superb and there are far more pieces than I had imagined that there would be.

Although it seems like there’s a lot of photos here, I could have put up so many more.  This is really just a glimpse of some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition.

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The ceiling of the Sistene Chapel

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Michelangelo’s David

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Venus de Milo

The large sculptures are extremely impressive, it’s hard to believe some of them are even made of Lego.  Nathan also has created a number of 2D pieces which, in many ways, are more remarkable (please excuse the photo quality, there’s only so much you can manage carrying a 4month old!).

Built up using the side of bricks they use colour and tone to convey the image.  Some are recognisable works of art built up in a relief of 2D and 3D to create depth, and others look like artistic patterns only to sync into a visible image when you take a step back.

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The Scream

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Mona Lisa

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa

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close up 3D detail

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The Starry Night


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The exhibition had break out spaces showing videos whiched offered a fascinating insight into how Nathan works.  From developing sketches to often chiselling apart large sections of a sculpture to redo them.  Plus a view of his superbly organised Lego workspsace of which I am completely jealous of!

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Some of the animal sculptures are remarkably lifelike.  Well, not like I thought “woah, there’s a dog in here“, but scaled up from the sort of sizes we play with Lego at home you start to blur the blocky edges and lose the square corners.

Curves and rounded shapes all of a sudden are possible and your eye interprets it as a whole new form.

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Our daughter making friends with the polar bear!

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An infinite knot

Hands are notoriously difficult to draw, I can’t even imagine how many attempts and amendments went into this giant Lego version!

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The integration of technology and humans

The swimmer sculpture was also particularly good.  Lit using a textured gobo projector it mimics the water ripples and, with the model’s reflection in the glass table top, creates a very powerful illusion of swimming.  Lots of people, me included, actually looked under the table and were surprised to see a distinct lack of Lego!

Lego brick swimmer

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Although you weren’t allowed to touch the sculptures (understandably!) there was nothing stopping you from posing with them.

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The resemblance is uncanny!

One of my favourites was the T-Rex skeleton comprising of some 80,000-odd pieces.  Stunning.

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Some clever pieces even needed a particular viewpoint before it became clear what you were looking at.



The added benefit of attending the exhibition so late in the calendar was that they had added an additional gallery called In Pieces, a wonderfully playful collaboration with Dean West of Lego items hidden in plain sight of some quite brilliant photographic scenes .



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Suspended bricks complete the floating illusion


CNN said that the exhibition was in the “top ten of must see global exhibitions”, and you can definitely see why.

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One of many tables in the gift shop!

Having just been inspired by approximately 1.5million Lego bricks through the whole show, and a short play in the gift shop, I then headed off to the Lego store to treat myself!

If you ever get the chance to see any of Nathan Sawaya‘s work I highly recommend it!


Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

Seven architectural practices from six countries and four continents. 23,000 square feet. 72 days. One monumental exhibition

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a private breakfast viewing of Sensing Spaces at the Royal Academy of Arts this week.  Invited by Pulsar it allowed a small group of us to experience the Architecture Reimagined exhibition in an uncrowded atmosphere, something unfamiliar for a popular exhibition at RA.

It was an exhibition I had been meaning to go to, but this opportunity was just the nudge I needed.  Offering a multi sensory experience of textures, smells, sights, sounds and lighting all combining in different ways to make each of the gallery spaces a unique and immersive experience.

Pezo von Ellrichshausen –
This space has been the ‘poster boy’ for the exhibition promo work so I wasn’t surprised that it was the first item we saw, standing above us all in the large gallery space.  Consisting of four spiral staircases hidden within wooden columns it allows you to make your way to the giddy heights of the gallery ceiling.




This offers you the usually unseen view of the gallery, the beautifully ornate golden ceiling and puts you at eye level with the angels detailed into the cornices.  You can then exit the platform down a ramp which, although unlit, gives you snippets of light through the floorboards before re-entering the bright gallery.



Kengo Kuma –
The first thing I noticed about this room was an unmistakeable air of calm as soon as we walked in.  Very low light levels and the scent of hinoki (Japanese cypress) and tatami (straw mat flooring) in the air combined to give a relaxed and welcoming feeling.  Once your eyes adjust to the relative darkness you notice the whittled sticks of bamboo softly  uplit from their base.  The concept was to “minimise materials but to maximise senses” and he certainly achieved that.



Eduardo Souto de Moura –
You almost pass through these pieces without realising they are actually part of the exhibition space.  The consideration has been placed on classic architecture and styling constructed with modern materials and techniques, in this case concrete.  What I really enjoyed was the attention to detail on each of the arches, they looked as if they could have easily been cast from the original.



Álvaro Siza –
I might have missed this piece if it wasn’t pointed out to us as it is actually outside the building as you approach.  Coloured concrete columns dot the courtyard, though looking closely only one is complete.  Taking inspiration to imitate the architecture of the nearby Burlington House.



Li Xiaodong –
This was the one area I genuinely got lost in.  A maze of hazel branches eerily backlit by an illuminated flooring system allow you to wander into various narrow pockets and viewpoints.  The pathway eventually opens up into a pit of pebbles, a welcome contrast of crunching underfoot that most of us smiled at, like we were doing something naughty in breaking the few minutes of near silence we had exploring the maze.  A large mirror reflects the pebbled space making it seem much larger and adding a tranquil sensation as you take it all in.





Diébédo Francis Kéré –
One of the most enjoyable rooms was a white corrugated plastic structure that is accompanied by a box of giant coloured straws which allow each guest to contribute to the structure, making it evolutionary and growing with every person that passes through.  This combination of interaction and coloured straws put a smile on everyone’s face, giggling in an almost childlike manner in seeing who put a straw in the highest or most obscure place.




Grafton Architects –
This was actually my favourite space, probably partly because of my lighting design bias.  Once your eyes adjust to the adjoining rooms you realise that the light is shifting.  Not just in colour, but also in intensity, mimicking daylight and moonlight over the course of 24 hours (courtesy of Pulsar).  You only need a few minutes here sitting or standing to appreciate the subtly changing conditions, but I found myself in here for much longer.





What I really liked about the whole private viewing was the relaxed atmosphere, first walking through each of the spaces with a representative from the Royal Academy giving a brief explanation on each one, and then after I wandered back through them at my own pace.  Noticing things I didn’t quite catch the first time around, or seeing something from another angle.

Wandering through in any order that you like “you are as much a part of this exhibition as the work itself“, and this encourages you to “reimagine the world around you“.

The complete exhibition is brilliant, whether you’ve been meaning to or not I would really recommend going to see it.  If you want any more information there is a short video from Kate Goodwin, the exhibition curator, here and a who’s who of the participating architects here.

Light Show

Last weekend I found myself with a, surprisingly rare, free Sunday morning and took the opportunity to head down to the Hayward Gallery on South Bank for the Light Show exhibition.

Naturally as a lighting designer I had a particularly keen interest in the subject matter, but I can’t recommend the exhibition enough to everyone.  Designer, or otherwise, the exhibition is a collection of fantastic examples of art, technology and lighting, spanning from works in the 1960s through to present day.

The exhibition is a wonderful assault on the senses, demonstrating how strong and powerful the sense of vision is.  From the mesmerising Cylinder II as you walk in, to the astounding effects of Chromosaturation and the slightly unnerving Reality Show, here are some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition.

Cylinder II, Leo Villareal
Cylinder II is the first piece that you come across in the exhibition, and it sets the tone for the high quality of artefacts in the room.  Over 19,000 LEDs in a piercing cool white CCT are stacked in highly polished mirror finish housings to form endlessly changing patterns.

Light Show Leo Villareal

Light Show at Hayward Gallery, London.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 27/1/2013.

Evocative of “meteor showers, falling snow, clouds of fireflies and other natural phenomena” the software used to program and control it is set on the ‘ultimate shuffle scheme’, where the pattern and effects never repeat.  With varying brightness, speed and direction, the whole sculpture captured my gaze into a trance-like manner, mesmerised with the patterns of oscillation.

Exploded View (Commuters), Jim Campbell
Combining some clever technology, Exploded View (Commuters) becomes immersed into the gallery space, subtly interacting with the audience as more people pass by.  Linked to a sensor as you approach the sculpture down a small stair, the rippling effects of LEDs blinking on and off is directly related to the passers-by.

Light Show Jim Campbell

Light Show Jim Campbell 2
From almost every viewpoint as you walk 360 degrees around the 1,000 suspended LED point sources, the blinking appears as a random array, but, from from a certain distance and at a particular angle, a discernible image emerges as a shadowy figure.  You notice it in a second as you move around, and then in the following second it is gone.  As more people pass through your viewpoint is lost to the flickering patterns that follow.

Wedgework V, James Turrell
I won’t spoil the surprise on this one, but approaching the exhibit by feeling you way along a pitch black corridor the softly glowing colours are not all they seem.

Light Show James Turrell
By spending up to 15 minutes in the room your eyes adjust to the light levels, gradually seeing more than when you first entered.

Slow Arc Inside A Cube IV, Conrad Shawcross
Enclosed in its own space behind a curtain, the slow arc is a show of a deceptively powerful shadow effect.

Light Show Conrad Shawcross
Inspired by the “immensely complicated process of mapping the molecular structure of insulin” the slowly rotating arm spins a light source through varying angles of orientation, swirling the grid-like shadows across all surfaces in the room.  Walking across the room is a bewildering experience, your brain, confused by the “moving surfaces”, struggles to coordinate with walking in a straight line and I found myself following others out the room by carefully sliding my palms along the flat wall for reassurance!

Chromosaturation, Carlos Cruz-Diez
Chromosaturation was my absolute personal favourite of the exhibition.  A real highlight demonstrating colour and human perception more simply and powerfully than words ever could.  Must be experienced in person to be fully appreciated!

Light Show Carlos Cruz-Diez 2

Colour becomes a situation happening in space

Light Show Carlos Cruz-Diez
Donning shoe covers you step into the first of three pristine white connected rooms, each flooded in a single colour – one red, one green, one blue.

Immersing yourself in the monochromacity your eyes view skin tones and clothing colours completely differently (skin looking particularly awful under green!).  Since your retina is used to perceiving a wide range of colours simultaneously these “monochromatic situations cause disturbances”.

The initially intense colour eventually “fades” to a pale, verging on white, imitation until you move along into the next room.  The green now comes across more vibrant than ever, and a glance back shows the “pale” red as a rich and intense pink, with the once blue room further along seemingly transformed to the most vibrant purple.

There are many more on show at the exhibition, and even those I’ve just mentioned take on far more impact and effect when experienced in person.  A true visual treat.

The exhibition runs until May 6th and if you do get a chance to visit I really recommend it.  It’s fantastic.

Images from

The Event Of A Thread

Not being in New York means that I wasn’t able to experience Ann Hamilton‘s fully immersive exhibition The Event of a Thread for myself.

Fortunately for me, and no doubt many other non-New-York-ers, Paul Octavious was inspired enough to take a camera along with him and documented the experience (worth watching in full screen).

Installation artist Ann Hamilton blends elements of nostalgia, sound, movement and time in her latest exhibition. As tots roam through a field of swings, live events will allow them to explore their memories and connect to others around them.

Read the full artist statement here.  Unerringly beautiful stuff, real shame I’m going to miss it.

Thanks to the guys at Not Tom for pointing this video out.

Terence Conran – The Way We Live Now

Marking Sir Terence Conran’s 80th birthday the Design Museum are showing a major exhibition which takes a look at his impact and influence on British life and design with The Way We Live Now.

The exhibition follows Conran’s career from his childhood growing up in post-war Kingston-upon-Thames through to his life as a designer, retailer, restauranteur, and all round entrepreneur.

Examples of his philosophy and design works are on show, elegantly summed up as “plain, simple and useful”.  It echoes the sentiment of the principles of good design by Dieter Rams who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest designers we’ve seen.

Evidence of Conran’s work process is on display too.  Numerous iterative prototypes and models refine the ergonomics and form to something beautifully simple and well designed.

As well as a good collection of some previously unseen work from his days at habitat.

As a designer this quote was particularly inspiring to read.  Why should somebody else have to work out how to make your design?  If you don’t know, then it’s probably either too complicated, or not yet finished.

Conran’s own office has also been painstakingly recreated here, over 1000 items show off a duplicate work environment that Conran uses, from photos and books to his desk and chair.  An insight into how he likes to work, and a real presenting touch that highlights even design heroes such as he are human too.

Terence Conran founded the Design Museum back in 1989 and his continual support of it was demonstrated last year when he gifted almost £18m to help fund the planned move of the museum to a new site in Kensington.  A sneak preview of the building and site can be seen.

The exhibition runs until 4th March, so if you’re down near Shad Thames in the next few weeks it’s well worth a visit.

The Obliteration Room

An extremely simple installation opened at Queensland Gallery Of Modern Art in December – The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama.

Comprising of a typical home environment set up and painted uniformly in a glaringly pristine white, it offered a literal blank canvas to all visitors to the exhibition, and in the two weeks that followed every child that turned up got a handful of coloured stickers and was invited to contribute by decorating the room.

With the time almost measurable based on sticker density alone, a wonderful feeling of freedom transpires.   No pattern, no restrictions, no guidelines, just complete and utter indulgence to splash colour about as you feel.  Perfectly suited to a child’s mind and creativity.

The transformation is the vivid and colourful explosion of dots you see here, a kind of child-friendly version of that Sony advert from a few years ago.

Photo by Stupie.  Used with permission.

Thousands and thousands of stickers later the ‘obliteration’ is complete.

Photo by Stupie.  Used with permission.

The bold, block colours are reminiscent of childhood, and add a wonderfully fun dimension to the exhibit with a a real human and interactive element.

If you’re in Queensland you can experience the room for yourself as part of the Look Now, See Forever exhibition at GOMA until March 11 2012.

125 Years Of Coca-Cola

Ok, so the title of this post probably gave it away, but I’ll bet most of you were thinking it.

During a sunny walk at the weekend along Shad Thames I came across Coca-Cola‘s recent display outside the Design Museum.  Celebrating their 125th year the vaults of their Atlanta based HQ have been opened to reveal some “rarities from the Coke archives”.

A small, but carefully curated, selection of items from Coca-Cola, with some pieces particularly fascinating from a design perspective.

The logo itself was created in 1886 by Frank Robinson, and is lettered in the now so familiar Spencerian script.  Little known fact the reason for the script is due to the favouritism the typeface had amongst accounting folk of that era.  Frank Robinson was in fact Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton’s book-keeper!

One of the most interesting elements of the display was the collection of bottles through the ages.  Despite some slight variations the visual identity has been largely unchanged in 125 years.

Well, you don’t become a globally recognised, iconic brand without some kind of longevity.

When the bottle was first designed, the curved frame of the Coke bottle was actually a nod to the shape of the cocoa bean (though the bean has nothing to do with the drink) and that general form has “sashayed in and out of fashion ever since”.

Some of the details of this relatively small display were fantastic too.  From the front you view an undulating wave of bottles throughout the years, but from the back you notice that the stands actually form the cross sectional contours of the modern day bottle.  Nice.

One of the great things about this display, was how well they utilised the space.  With, essentially, a glass box it can be tempting to cram objects and descriptions into the limited space.  But with equally limited space to optimise font size for distance reading, they successfully embraced some modern technology in the humble QR Code.

Just a simple tap on my phone and I had all the information in my hand.  Good work guys and girls.

Take the fascinating virtual and interactive tour through the remarkable Coca-Cola archives here to see much, much more.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

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