From canvas to Lego bricks
Looking at Fernando Amorsolo’s pieces can instantly transport you to a time of the Philippines’ past, when the fiery sun rays kiss the golden fields and women and men working side by side is such an idyllic sight. Taking the experience to the next level is his master brushstrokes, which art historian Floriana Capistrano-Baker defined as “swift, broken brushwork, and thick impasto, with emphasis on landscapes and daily scenes.” While it is hard to recreate his work, one bites on the challenge, and instead of using brushes and paint, Lego bricks become prime materials to bring the vision to life.
Leslie Leshen Araujo (Portrait by Jason Quibilan)
Leslie Leshen Araujo, president and LAN (Lego Ambassador Network) ambassador of PinoyLUG (Lego User Group), takes his passion for Lego to the next level as he is set to launch “Project AMORsolo,” an exhibit that recreated some of Fernando Amorsolo’s paintings into Lego mosaics. The idea for the project began one day in 2021 when he was cleaning his house and encountered old postcards presenting the National Artist’s works. Leslie remembered conversations of his late father and their relatives about their great grandfather, Rafael Araujo Sr., and his wife, Augusta Tiongco, who were both painters and good friends of Amorsolo. Augusta, in fact, took painting lessons from him at the University of the Philippines.
“I looked at the prints on those postcards closely and then the spark of an idea came to me,” Leslie says. “This was going to be PinoyLUG’s next big project, the biggest and most challenging one. My Lego family would work together to fulfill the dream, based on the legacy of a great Filipino artist.”
Imbibing the toy brand’s creed, “Lego beyond play. Beyond what it is known for,” Leslie together with his team at PinoyLUG, a Filipino community of Lego users accredited by The Lego Group as part of its global network of Recognized Lego User Group, did what many would think could be impossible. At first, he hid the project under the code name AMOR, as it would be a labor of love. Each team participant would be given a mysterious pattern to fill. When all the patterns were done, they would be collected and assembled at an appointed venue to complete the mosaic. Only then will the finished project be revealed as Project AMORsolo. Choosing pieces from the vast archive of Amorsolo’s art could be daunting. But the team narrowed it down to three masterpieces to work on, the “Bayanihan”, “Dalagang Bukid”, and “Early Traders.”
“Looking at the brick mosaics of Amorsolo’s ‘Early Traders,’ ‘Dalagang Bukid,’ and ‘Bayanihan’—I am filled with pride at the amount of work and dedication that PinoyLUG teams have put there, and humbled by the magnanimous support that people have given to us,” Leslie muses. “This is another manifestation of God’s goodness. He makes things happen in His time.”
This project couldn’t have happened at a better time, as 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Fernando Amorsolo as the first recipient of the Philippines Order of National Artists in Visual Arts. “Project AMORsolo” will be presented in partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Fernando C. Amorsolo Art Foundation, Inc., and will be part of the CCP’s commemoration of the golden anniversary of the “Grand Old Dad of Philippine Art” as a National Artist.
“I am deeply grateful to the CCP for partnering with PinoyLUG on this project and opening a portal for the fulfillment of my dream, and to the Fernando C.Amorsolo Foundation for recognizing the merits of this project that hopes to promote and preserve the legacy of a great Filipino artist.”
Sylvia Amorsolo-Lazo, (seated) daughter of the late famous painter Fernando C. Amorsolo, the first National Artist of the Philippines, is flanked by her immediate family in front of the Lego bricks mosaic (Jason Quibilan/Shutterspace Studios)
Leslie has always dreamed of this moment ever since he stepped foot inside the Lego house in Billund, Denmark in 2017 before it formally opened to the public. With unparalleled dedication to the craft of Lego building and his PinoyLUG’s talent perfectly showcased by “Project AMORsolo,” it is no longer a far cry to see Filipinos’ works to be displayed at the “Home of the Brick.”
The team behind ‘Dalagang Bukid‘ (Jason Quibilan/Shutterspace Studios)
The team behind ‘Early Traders’ (Jason Quibilan/Shutterspace Studios)
The team behind ‘Bayanihan‘ (Jason Quibilan/Shutterspace Studios)
“In doing this project, we are continuing to bridge the past with the present through the legacy of art that speaks of our history, patriotism, and cultural pride. And we are doing so with fun. Years from now, our children and those that follow after them would accomplish more—looking beyond what we have done today,” Leslie says. “That is the legacy that we, at PinoyLUG would like to leave to our Lego families. Creativity and Change. To look beyond play, with remembrance, with love, and with pride.”
“Project AMORsolo” will run at the Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco (Little Theater Lobby) Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Boulevard, in Pasay City, Philippines from April 29 to May 29, 2022 (Tuesday to Sunday | 10 a.m to 6 p.m.). It is under the sponsorship of Lego Certified Stores Philippines and the Manila Bulletin. It will move to a more public setting after its initial display at the CCP.