Lego Guns inspired by Troubles
23 Sep 2021
by Katy Rink

Bricks and War - Art and Conflict 

Brick by Brick is proving popular at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery this autumn – Katy Rink spoke to one of the featured LEGO artists David Turner of Belfast Arts about his amazing firearms pieces. 

Lego artist David Turner is something of a controversial builder. Anti-firearms campaigners have said his work – some of which depicts pistols and machine guns – is inappropriate and even promotes guns.

But the impulse to create the pieces couldn’t be more removed from a desire to glamorise, as we found out when we interviewed David ahead of the exhibition in Shrewsbury. They are inspired by his childhood in Northern Ireland, growing up at the height of The Troubles – as he puts it ‘a warning from my past’. They are disquietening, as art has the power to be, and might be interpreted as a critical commentary on the glorification of war and violence. 

Belfast Arts Lego Gun

David Turner is exhibiting a poignant installation of 19 replica firearms in 'Brick by Brick', making reference to his childhood spent in Northern Ireland during The Troubles - pictured here, another multi-coloured gun from his collection

Like many children, David enjoyed playing with Lego, growing up in the 1970s, but it wasn’t part of his artistic practice, until later in life.

“I had a major crisis in my life and stopped making art for about two and a half years,” he says. “At that stage I had a young son and would play with him and his toys. This started my creative process back up and I looked for ways to work with toys as a material.”

The inspiration to fashion a gun from bricks is rooted in childhood: “When I was a child in Belfast, even then my nursery school has a policy of no toy guns. This was the early 70s’. Being told I couldn’t have something, of course being that age I wanted to have it.

“The first thing I did was go to the Lego box and make myself a toy gun. The work on show is a combination of two memories. One being that time in nursery school and the other of seeing arms finds in Belfast being displayed on TV, on top of tables. My work is in no way glorifying firearms but a warning from my past.”

He has also created large mosaics using Lego and Hama beads showing atomic explosions in bright colours - in stark contrast to the material they were made from.

David explains: “Again the work came from memories of growing up in the 80’s with the ever present threat of conflict between the US and the USSR. While eyes were on the conflict in Northern Ireland, as a teenager I was more concerned with the world threat.”

Unfortunately, David has been unable to travel any of the venues included in the Brick by Brick touring exhibition, due to work commitments and the pandemic, but says he hopes to see it before it ends.

Hamna Beads DAvid Turner


  • Brick by Brick – International Lego Brick Art is at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery until Sunday, November 14 from 10am to 4pm.

The Brick by Brick exhibition gathers the work of 18 artists, designers and photographers from around the world who use LEGO® bricks as their medium or inspiration. Using this simple plastic construction block as their starting point, they have created stunning, thought provoking and often humorous artworks which will appeal to art enthusiasts and LEGO® fans alike.