Artist's Downing Street sculpture fashioned from 5,117 cubes

By Nuala McCann
BBC News

image captionBrendan Jamison and his Downing Street sculpture

Northern Ireland artist Brendan Jamison has claimed a special niche in the UK corridors of power.

The craftsman is a cubist of a different kind - he is known for carving thousands of sugar lumps into intricate buildings.

He has been chosen for an exhibition inside 10 Downing Street.

Visiting presidents and prime ministers from across the world will be able to see the iconic black door they have just stepped through, carved in sugar.

Jamison, 32, used 5,117 sugar cubes and took two months to complete his Downing Street door.

"It is a great honour to exhibit in Number 10 and is definitely a career highlight," he said.

"It is also a privilege to be working with curator Janice Blackburn once again. She has an OBE for her patronage of the arts and is also an esteemed writer and former co-curator of the Saatchi Gallery in London. Her level of professionalism is exceptional."

This is not a commercial exhibition, instead it seeks to highlight the most innovative art and craft in the UK to visiting politicians from around the globe.

Janice Blackburn first worked with Brendan Jamison during the display of his Tate Modern and Helen's Tower series at Sotheby's on Bond Street in October 2010.

The Belfast-based artist has made a name for himself using a tonne of sugar lumps and sculpted them into beautiful intricate models that glitter in the daylight, in the way that only pure white sugar can.

He fashioned the iconic Tate Modern building in London, made to scale, using exactly 71,908 sugar cubes.

His Tate Modern sculpture is 2m wide and weighs in at 224kg.

image captionHelen's Tower in sugar: © Brendan Jamison

It was commissioned by Native Land and Grosvenor for the 2010 London Festival of Architecture.

He also created a sugar model of NEO Bankside - four apartment pavilions beside the Tate Modern.

Brendan's interest in architecture began in childhood. He was always a 3-D thinker, he said, and there was one toy he loved above all others.

"I was always in my room building Lego models," he said.

"I built spaceships and castles but I never bothered with the instructions... I just built whatever I could think of in my mind."

Throwing away the instructions, he unlocked the key to a creativity which sees the beauty in the ordinary.

Not for him clay, stone or marble. In his years at art school in Belfast and afterwards, he took wool and wax and sugar and created art from them.

He came to sugar after a brief dalliance with Smarties - and was attracted by how he could cut and carve the cubes.

"There was more freedom in working with them," he explained.

"I was attracted by the beautiful sparkles on the sugar cubes. It is a beautiful finish, you can see the fairytale sparkle in the natural light."

In his final year at the University of Ulster, his exhibition featured seven 9ft tall sculptures - they were temples and minarets and giant cacti.

This devil is in the detail.

For buildings, Brendan begins his work by studying intricate architects' plans and works to scale.

In the case of the Tate Modern, the scale was 1:100 and it took three months to complete, plus another two months to build the NEO Bankside.

Visitors to his exhibitions are always stunned by the intricacy of the models. They worry that sugar will be fragile.

He usually treats them to the "knock" test - to show that the models can take a few knocks. He uses special glue which is absorbed into the sugar to bond the cubes together.

Last year, with support from the Northern Ireland Arts Council, he built a 5m-high turret from Helen's Tower in Bangor, with every twist, balcony and casement window fashioned with precision, right down to the chimney of hearts.

Brendan Jamison's work has been exhibited all over the world - in India, China, Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, France, Canada and the US.

It is a long way from childhood days building Lego on the bedroom floor.

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