He works with bricks, tyres, coat hangers and newspapers. Loads of newspapers. Now DAVID MACH is back in Scotland for an extravagant show of new and recent works. Just don’t call him controversial. Words: Helen Monaghan
and theatricality produces the kind of spectacle worthy
of a Cecil B. DcMille movie. Transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Mach’s sculptures range in size from small to gargantuan. He takes everyday consumer durables. from matchsticks and coat hangers and turns them into something new.
His large-scale outdoor sculptures have included Train, a full-size replica of a steam train made from thousands of red bricks in Darlington and, on the M8, Big Heids - three huge heads made from individual pieces of steel — which dominates the skyline like a modem-day Mount Rushmore. His specially commissioned piece for the Millennium Dome, The National Portrait was a staggering lOOft by 225ft photographic collage made up of donated photographs, magazine cuttings, books and posters, documenting people at work, rest and play. This is no ordinary art show, but then again, this is no ordinary artist.
‘I’m really delighted to be back in Scotland again,’ says Fife- bom Mach in his London studio as he prepares for his
D avid Mach is more showman than artist. His epic style
forthcoming show at Glasgow‘s Gallery of Modern Art. ‘What would
‘We're doing a lot for GOMA, there’s about eight or nine
different ways of working going on at the same time and you rather do:
tree. In terms of scale, this set a precedent of things to come. The infamous Polaris, Mach’s ﬁrst big public sculpture was built from 6000 car tyres in the image of a Polaris submarine in 1983. Sited outside London’s Hayward Gallery, it lasted only a week. It was destroyed by an arsonist who later died from severe burns. This tragic incident did not put Mach off, and he continued to make large-scale art works. It Takes Two created as part of a British festival in the Ukraine in 1990, featured two giant Sumo wrestlers carrying a heavy load. Made for Kiev, the piece became a travelling show, appearing in London, Warsaw, Sydney, Glasgow and Edinburgh (although when it came to Leith, vandals decapitated one of the wrestlers; the head turned up a week or so later). Temple At Tyne at Leith Docks in 1994 was a Greek temple made from tyres sat atop hundreds of freight containers. The materials Mach uses in his work are inspired by his formative years. Born in Methil in 1956, he was surrounded by industry. ‘Everywhere you looked, you were surrounded by people making things,’ he says. ‘I grew up next to a brick works where they were pumping out bricks all night. And then I was working in factories, seeing
we’re trying to show people in Glasgow as much of the stand and lock enormous things being produced and it kind of rubbed range as possible. You shouldn’t underestimate this show, at a painting or off on me. Fife is not mountainous, but it does have a
there’s a hell of lot stuff and it cost a fortune to make.’
Mach’s different ways of working include sculptures eat an amaz|ng made from coat hangers — one of a spaceman modelled meal?!
on the footage of Neil Armstrong’s ﬁrst steps on the moon — new collage works made up of photographs donated by the people of Glasgow and an installation which will be created once the show has opened using 50 tonnes of newspaper. letting the public see Mach and his team at work. This perfonnance side to Mach’s working practice is crucial, which not only makes his work more accessible but adds a strong sense of theatre to the piece. And like any showman, Mach loves an audience.
‘This is very important to me because I think that art is very much a po-faced thing,’ he says, his Scottish accent still strong, even after twenty years in London living with his wife Lesley. ‘I really try and get over that, but it’s a very difﬁcult thing to achieve. What you’re trying to do is get all sorts of people in there. You’re trying to make the work move its little ﬁnger and beckon people over to come and see it. People are very sceptical about what you do. They always say my work is accessible. but it’s a real battle to make it accessible.’
Like previous works, the magazine installation will consist of thousands of copies of The Herald newspaper, painstakingly arranged to form huge swirls and vortices of newsprint, engulfing objects in its wake like a giant tidal wave or lava ﬂow. There is much humour in his work, but it also carries a serious message. His use of large quantities of unused objects highlights the overproduction and overconsumption of western society. Mach draws our attention to wastefulness and the importance people attach to material possessions, ﬂaunting this overproduction by making it into sculpture.
While Mach was a student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, he worked with large quantities of objects. For Camperdown Park in Dundee back in I979, he created a huge carpet of leaves which was suspended from a
very big landscape and it had a huge effect on me.’
The inspiration for most of his work is not art, but ﬁlms, books and music. He doesn’t seem much interested in art. Only his own. ‘I’m not a great art lover at all, but I do like books, I do like ﬁlms and I do like music. I like all sorts of stuff. I like a lot of food. I mean, what would you rather do: stand and look at a painting or eat a fucking amazing meal? Well, I know what I would rather do.’
Mach speaks his mind. He is self-assured and you imagine he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Does he agree with the common description of himself as a ‘controversial artist’? No is the short answer. The phrase is usually drafted in when large sums of public money are involved and somebody always seems to provide the statistics of how many hospitals the cash could have built. ‘Well, you’re always going to get that,’ he says. ‘You could say that about anything; it’s a miserable argument.’
I tell him about the vitriolic description in the Daily
artist who has built a career out of using public money to create huge, bizarre sculptures.’ ‘That’s terrible,’ he retorts. ‘I think someone may have got the sack for that comment because it sounds like you’re dipping into public coffers all the time. The money that I spend on my work is mine for the most part. I earn it, I make the fucking stuff and that is really very irritating. It’s not tax you’re spending. To me Lottery money is precisely for that kind of thing and I would defend that to the hilt.’
Whether you agree or not, there’s no denying the sheer spectacle of his art. This show coincides with plans for a piece in an Amsterdam housing scheme and a sculpture for a marine base in France. With ambitions to work in China and Iceland, it’s only a matter of time before Mach hits the headlines again.
'0‘ Mail which labelled him as a ‘controversial Scottish
David Mach opens at the Gallery Of Modern Art, Glasgow on Fri 22 Mar.
14—28 Mar 2002 1’". LIST 25