Releasing the spirit of LEGO

By Rhonda Dredge

CBD resident Jan van Schaik makes his own sculptural toys out of LEGO and exhibits them around the world. 

He gave a talk at gallery Sarah Scout Presents in May prior to the Venice Biennale of Architecture.

His Lost Tablets will be featured in the online version of the prestigious show.

Mr van Schaik is a well-known figure in CBD art circles. He organises art talks in the city and collects.

He’s pictured above with Lady Nelson, one of his mysterious LEGO creations named after a lost ship.

The name appears to be a furphy for it is the construction of these A4-sized sculptures and the sourcing of LEGO pieces that really counts in this thought-provoking demonstration of upcycling. 

The LEGO company does not make it easy to accumulate one colour, releasing just a few of each in its building sets. 

As an architect, Jan is familiar with columns, arches and pediments and uses these in his restrained approach to construction. 

“I’m trained to look at them,” he said. “The built philosophy. I can speak it because it’s a language I’ve been using for decades.”

But what about the Lady Nelson? Does he know what happened to it? “Look it up on Google,” he said.

There’s a thing about creation … the work seems to be directing the moves. Some pieces took months. 

Jan had no final shape in mind. The pieces seemed to be controlling his hands. 

“It feels like I’m not actually making them,” he said. “They’re making themselves.” Perhaps he’s playing with the idea of Michelangelo’s conceit that the artwork is already in the stone. 

Many of the latest generation of makers have been won over by the elaborate pre-designed creatures off series such as Ninjago.

But the more basic building block sets are stored in lost play rooms all over the world, leading to a strong recycling ethic. Jan bought his first lot of yellow in an op shop in Colac.

“Many of these come from the Friends sets for girls,” he said. “There’s a worldwide shortage of pink. I’m contributing to that.”

Afficionados appreciate the constructions out of one colour. They most elegantly display form. Jan has built 74 ghost ships. This is his first major exhibition. 

The works are for sale for $3500, a price that has shock value for some. •

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