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PAINTING

One masterpiece, 10 days, and 98,000 Legos

Duisburg student Mehdi Ghiassi builds phenomenal works of art at a frantic pace in his shuttered home. That's the only way he is assured a supplier's refund on the thousands of Lego bricks he uses.

One masterpiece, 10 days, and 98,000 Legos
Photo: YouTube/Joseph Kuhr

Apart from the intense time pressure, a saving grace is that unlike his inspiration Michelangelo, Ghiassi, 23, doesn't have to lie on his back on scaffolding to paint frescos on distant ceilings.

Apart from that, it's a gruelling, self-imposed labour of love to finish in time to dismantle it and claim his refund from the internet supplier. Otherwise the cost of the project is simply prohibitive, he says.

Primarily a comic book illustrator, Ghiassi branched into Lego art to "do something that has not yet been done", he told The Local.

His version of Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam' was built from 98,304 bricks in ten days, allowing him three days to dismantle the plastic masterpiece, repack and return the bricks within the prescribed two-week period.

Measuring two by three metres, this first or two large-scale works so far was created in conditions of complete isolation. First he rolled down the shutters of his student house lodgings, switched on his spotlights and worked feverishly until the piece was finished.

To make the deadline he had to lay one piece every three seconds for 16 hours a day over ten days. He grabbed food and showers when he could and generally slept no more than four hours. "You lose track of yourself unbelievably quickly," he says.

Unsurprisingly, he suffers cramps in his fingers, and they quickly get sore from handling the sharp edges of the blocks.

Ghiassi makes no comparisons of course, but it's still worth noting that it took Michelangelo over four years to paint the original in the Sistine Chapel.

A keen artist in his childhood and later a student of art and comic book art, Ghiassi switched to machine building to have more secure employment when he graduates in three years. 

But his heart still lies in his comic book art. In revealing his crafty building material ruse, he hopes his Lego 'detour' will raise his artist's profile enough to find work.

Nor was Adam a one-off. Once he had dismantled the Michaelangelo in January, he ordered the next batch of bricks and immediately set about his second work. In the same time period he successfully completed a replica of the oil painting 'Napoleon Crossing the Alps' by French artist Jacques-Louis David.

SEE ALSO: Drunken art theft 'marked World Cup victory'

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ART

Seven-year-old ‘mini-Picasso’ shakes up German art world

Mikail Akar doesn't flinch as the cameras click around him. Born in 2012, the German artistic prodigy has spent half his life in the limelight.

Seven-year-old 'mini-Picasso' shakes up German art world
The then 6-year-old Akar at an exhibition for his paintings in Hamburg in February 2019. Photo: DPA

With his striped jumper, goofy grin and dreams of becoming a professional footballer, Akar seems just like any other seven-year-old boy.

Yet the Cologne-born youngster is actually an expressionist whizz kid who has taken the international art scene by storm.

Dubbed the “pre-school Picasso” by German media, Akar's paintings now sell for thousands of euros to buyers from across the world.

'Enough action figures'

“At just seven years old, he is established in the art world. There is interest from Germany, France and the USA,” his father and manager, Kerem Akar, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Art in Germany: 10 critically-acclaimed galleries you can't miss

Akar senior discovered Mikail's precocious talent by chance several years ago, when he gifted his son a canvas and some handprint paints for his fourth birthday.

“We had already bought him enough cars and action figures, so we had the idea of getting him a canvas,” Kerem Akar said.

“The first picture looked fantastic, and I thought at first that my wife had painted it.”

“I thought maybe it was just coincidence, but by the second and third pictures it was clear he had talent.”

Akar with his parents Kerem (l) und Elvan at a Hamburg gallery in February 2019. Photo: DPA

Boxing gloves

Akar's talent is visible in his latest collection, a collaboration with Germany and Bayern Munich football star Manuel Neuer.

One work in the collection was recently sold for 11,000 euros, with proceeds going to Neuer's children's charity.

An explosion of colour reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, the piece is typical of Akar's abstract expressionist style.

The seven-year-old tells AFP that his idols include Pollock, Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

He has also developed his own techniques, which include applying paint by punching the canvas with his father's boxing gloves.

At a presentation of Akar's new work at a private gallery in Berlin last month, one visitor said she was “speechless” upon discovering that the artist was a child who was just starting primary school.

“The balance and harmony of the composition — I wouldn't expect that from a child,” Arina Daehnick, a photographer from Berlin, told AFP.

Diana Achtzig, director of the Achtzig Gallery for Contemporary Art in Berlin, said she was impressed by Akar's “imagination and variation”.

“As long as he has someone supporting him and not exploiting him, then he has a great future ahead of him,” she said.

Football dreams

Akar himself says his dreams for when he has grown up lie elsewhere.

“When I'm older I want to be a football player,” he said, launching into an excited account of a recent 8-0 victory with his school team.

“Painting is quite tiring for me. Sometimes it can take a long time…especially with boxing gloves,” he said.

His father insists that he and his wife are careful not to push their son too hard and to protect him from the trappings of fame.

“If it gets too much for him, we will intervene. We turn down a lot of requests,” said the elder Akar.

“He only paints when he wants to. Sometimes that is once a week, sometimes
once a month.”

Successful brand

Yet Akar senior also admits that his life has changed dramatically since discovering his son's talent, and that he and his wife now “live for art”.

A former salesman and recruitment agent, the 38-year-old has since switched
to managing Mikail full time.

He has founded his own agency, and helped to establish his son as a successful brand.

At the event in Berlin, young Mikail rummages through a box of freshly ordered baseball caps adorned with his official logo.

He now has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram, and will exhibit his work abroad for the first time in the spring.

“Our next exhibition is in Cologne,” said the boy's father. “After that, we are going to Paris!”

By Kit Holden

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