David Mach holds his first solo show in Scotland for four years at the Glasgow Print Studio. He talked to Beatrice Colin about his obsession with industrial containers.
Between the tumbling chaos of Glasgow‘s Paddy's Market and the frenzied shoppers of Argyle Street. there is a small paved area called King's Court. During Mayfest. a sculpture of two huge Sumo wrestlers wrapped in combat around a large yellow container will stand there like some huge crazy Japanese cartoon. This is not some publicity prop for an obscure Far Eastern comic but a sculpture by Scottish artist. David Mach.
it’s part of a show called. Haku. or box in Japanese. and will include sculpture. prints and embroidered kimonos. All the pieces are linked by the repeated image of the container stacked in mountains and crowned with temples. steel girder heads or battled over by Sumos.
“The whole show revolves around containers.‘ he says. ‘1 started off with one idea for a piece which used a t-shirt i had with a Japanese pn'nt oftwo Sumo wrestlers ﬁghting with an audience watching them. i made a sculpture of two big Sumo wrestlers but I separated them and put a container in between them.‘
‘I started to use things that weren’t ‘materials’, like bottles and telegraph poles or cans.’
Mach has gained an international reputation for sculpture which employs man-made and mass produced objects. One of his early works of a submarine made of tyres which was sited on the Thames and became infamous when someone tried to set it on ﬁre and died in the process. He also has used match sticks. coat hangers. bottles. a grand piano and even cars in his monumentally sized work. Certain imagery like the human head or the Greek temple appear again and again in his work. Containers are his newest material and symbol.
‘lt‘s like oh my God. this guy's got an unhealthy obsession with containers.‘ he says. ‘But i think they're really important objects. they’re symbolic of a 100 different things. They're internationally recognised. they‘re a brilliant building block. they're this great plinth and they‘re the box which contains everything that you‘ve ever bought in your life that's been transported. i could go on forever about these things. The industrial edge to them is something I really like and there's a really old fashioned thing
about them — it's odd that in a contemporary world. they should exist at all.‘
David Much has an infectious enthusiasm. He's eating his breakfast and talking and has a million things on his mind. Like a human dynamo. he spins from show to show. often not ﬁnalising the idea until two weeks before the opening. ‘lle treats things in short bursts.‘ commented John McKechnie of the Print Studio. ‘He brings people in and just makes things happen.‘
‘Life is short bursts.‘ Mach conﬁrms. ‘lt‘s not
stressful. l've always been like this. even in college. l
wouldn't ever do anything unless i was threatened with expulsion. And i found 1 could actually do it in two days. it didn't take two months. l‘d watch people taking ages to do nothing. It focuses you in a lot of
ways and it‘s an aid to getting things done. There's a deadline every bloody day now.’
But part of the reason Mach is so busy is that his work is so accessible. His mediums instantly attract the viewer. ‘1 think there‘s a kind of snobbery attached to art materials. At college you try traditional things like wood and stone but I ended up working in factories and seeing the mass production process. I started to use things that weren't ‘materials'. like bottles and telegraph poles or cans which l‘d seen in multiples of thousands and millions and that really grabbed me.
‘And i really liked ﬁnding something that was already invested with its own identity. it wasn‘t just a
piece of wood. it was a chair. you know. i got much more interested in that than in natural material and the more i got into it. the more complicated i wanted it to be. i didn‘t want it to be an art material because that was a kind of block to the audience and so l
started using things that everybody knows. They have their own history relating to the materials. so they shouldn’t be scared of it.‘
‘Rachel Whitbread’s house was an easy target for bigots and twits.’
Quite what the hawkers and shoppers at Paddy‘s market will think about Mach's Sumo sculpture is unclear but no-one will be trying to sell them the
' book ofthe ﬁlm ofthe TV serial.
‘People are sceptical of art and artists.’ he laments. ‘They should be scared and sceptical ofeverything else but artists are fairly straight. Rachel Whitbread's
house was an easy target for bigots and twits, which was a shame because it was a really interesting
f piece. We're the only ones that aren't trying to
l hoodwink them or sell them something. We'rejust
} doing what we do. Generally you show everything and you‘re not hiding anything at all. Artists are just
i sort of stupid that way.‘
i David Mach is a! the Glasgow Print Studio from Sat
l 30 April—28 May.
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: OUT OF THE BLUE 0 VOLUMES
The List 22 April—5 May 1994 O3