Widely known for his dynamic and imaginative large-scale collages, sculptures, and installations, Mach brings pop-cultural imagery under the lens. His pieces are theatrical yet universally relatable. The creativity and innovation that fuel Mach’s energy pushes him to create striking original pieces from ordinary everyday materials.
“I don’t make work out of bronze I’m doing it with this unlikely, naff material because coat hangers are something you don’t give a second thought to. It’s getting to another audience. You’re not talking to the guy who loves art; you’re trying to reach people who would rather set you on fire and chuck you in the river than pay attention to what you do.”
“People always ask if I have one big idea. I have hundreds. And if I have good ideas I want to realise them, make them, build them. But I can’t get them done fast enough – it’s just physically impossible.”
Born in Methil (Scotland) in 1956, David Mach rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his ambitious and remarkable large scale sculptures and installations made out of everyday, ordinary bottles, tyres, newspapers, magazines, metal coathangers, matches…. These represent excess in mass production. By using such materials, he explores the resonance of their industrial use and reflects aspects of an aggressive and consumer-driven culture.
He aimed to demythologise the practice of art by incorporating these mass-produced elements in often satirical constructions. Mach also rejected the traditional function of sculpture as an avenue for the contemplation of abstract ideas, preferring in his temporal installations to make a point of contact with the urgent concerns of the modern world.
His installations in fact can deploy tonnes of published material, magazines, newspapers, etc. and are built in such a way as to create marvellous flowing forms that swirl and twist and seem to either envelope or to expel the most unlikely objects.
For instance, Adding Fuel to the Fire, was an installation assembled from a truck and several cars surrounded and subsumed by about 100 tons of magazines, individually arranged to create the impression that the vehicles were being caught in an explosion of flames and billowing smoke, relaying a sense of urgency and movement to its audience.
The thousands of magazines were composed into ripples and swells that mimic natural forms like rocks and topography. There was something post-apocalyptic about the juxtaposition of transportation technology and the writhing mass of periodicals that weaved through it. In particular, the rhythm evoked by the swirling piles bore some resemblance to the movement patterns of natural disasters – like hurricanes and tornadoes, these forms were rounded, cyclical, finely textured.
The fluidity with which the magazine mass inundated swamped cars, trucks and airplanes subtly recalled scenes of natural disaster aftermath, with household items semi-submerged into layered sediment. But these works do not depict wreckage literally, and Mach’s use of color, texture and scale is masterful, resulting in spatial compositions that impress and delight.
Subverting traditional meanings
Mach’s practice subverts traditional meanings assigned to objects and reassigns them surreal or anarchic connotations, often surprising the viewer through scale, materiality or concept and prompting the viewer to reconsider their preconceptions.
The density of the installations is echoed in match heads where multiple objects make the whole. Thousands of safety matches are in fact glued together so that only the coloured heads of the matches are seen. Mach sees the match heads as having three clear lives: the original head, the performance of burning it; and the burned head forming instantly aged black and white version of the originals.
The coathanger sculptures are made in a similar way to the matchheads. Using traditional sculptural techniques a figure or an object is modelled in clay, molded, cast and then the coathangers are laboriously shaped, fitted and welded around the shape. Finally, the artist plates them in nickel for a finishing touch.
His figures are indeed defined not by their enclosed form but also by material that emanates from their bodies as we understand them. Like characters on a static-filled television, they appear as illusions or mirages. Their blurry boundaries allow them to exist in a mysterious space beyond the corporeal.
As well as exhibiting extensively worldwide Mach has also made a number of commissioned public sculptures in the UK. He has works in public collections at the Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, the National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the British Council collection among many others.
1974/79 Duncan of Jordanston College of Art, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
1975 Pat Holmes Memorial Prize
1976 Duncan of Drumfork Travelling Scholarship
1977 SED minor travelling scholarship
1978 SED major travelling scholarship
1979/82 Royal College of Art (RCA), London, United Kingdom
1982 RCA Drawing Prize
1988 Nominated for the Turner Prize, Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom
1992 Won Lord Provost’s Award, RGI, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
1998 Elected Member of the Royal Academy of Arts
1999 Visiting Professor, Sculpture Department, Edinburgh College of Art
2000 Appointed Professor of Sculpture, Royal Academy Schools, London, United Kingdom
2002 Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Dundee University
2004 Made Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy
2004 First Visiting Professor of Inspiration and Discovery at the University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
2006-2010 Elected to the board of the National Portrait Gallery
2011 Bank of Scotland Herald Angel Award 2011 winner for Precious Light
Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award for Art
Selected public art projects and commisions
2015 “Phantom”, commissioned by Morrisons Supermarkets, Scotland, United Kingdom
2012 The Vinadio “Giants”, VIAPAC Project, Regione Piemonte, Italy
2002 Collage Portrait of Glasgow commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
2000 Unveiled “Good Guys, Bad Guys” & “Scamble”, sculptures commissioned by Chesterfield Council, United Kingdom
1999 Installed “A National Portrait”, a 70m x 3m collage of Britain, commissioned by the NMEC for the Self Portrait Zone of the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, United Kingdom
1999 Unveiled “Big Heids”, three sculptures sited by the M8 motorway in North Lanark, Scotland, commissioned by North Lanark Council, United Kingdom
1998 Installed gargoyle sculpture commissioned by the town of Nicosia, Cyprus
1997 Unveiled “Train”, Britain’s largest contemporary public sculpture in Darlington, commissioned by Darlington Council, Morrison Supermarkets and Northern Arts, United Kingdom
1997 Installed “It Takes Two”, on Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia, for Sydney International Arts Festival
1996 “Urn”, commissioned for their collection by McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
1994 “Temple at Tyre”, Leith Docks, Edinburgh, commissioned by Edinburgh City Council to support their bid to be City of Architecture and Design
1989 “Out of Order”, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, commissioned by the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames
Selected public collections
Aberdeen Art Gallery, United Kingdom
British Council, London, United Kingdom
Dundee Art Gallery, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull, England, United Kingdom
FRAC du Rhones-Alpes, France
Kawasaki City Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, Scotland, United Kingdom
Manchester City Art Gallery, United Kingdom
Mercer Gallery, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Museé d’art contemporain, Dole, France
Museé d’art contemporain, Antwerp, Belgium
Museé Leon Dierx, Reunion Island, France
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, U.S.A
National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland, United Kingdom
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Scotland, United Kingdom
Tate, London, United Kingdom
Tate, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Wolverhampton Art Gallery, United Kingdom
Selected solo exhibitions
2015Precious Light. Turin, Italy
2013David Mach, New Works. Forum Gallery, New York, USA
Precious Light. Palazzo Frangini, Venice, Italy
2012 Precious Light. Galway, Ireland, United Kingdom
Mach-Mania: the David Mach Show. Opera Gallery, Hong Kong
2011Precious Light. City Arts Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
2010Iconography. Opera Gallery, London, United Kingdom
2009Mach. Opera Gallery, Geneva, Switzerland
2008 Size doesn’t matter. Art Center de Vishal, Haarlem, The Netherlands
Breaking Images. The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong, China
David Mach. DUTAC, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2007David Mach-In Seine. Opera Garnier, Paris, France
Postcard Collages. Jill George Gallery, London, United Kingdom
David Mach. Forum Gallery, New York, USA
2006Visit London. Touring exhibition, London, Milan, Berlin, Barcelona
The State of Heads. Jill George Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Fortune. Mint Club, Hong Kong, China
2005New Collages and Sculpture. Forum Gallery, New York, USA
2004New Collages. Jill Georges Gallery, London, United Kingdom
2003Straight Up. Galerie Jérome de Noirmont, Paris
2002Hell Bent. Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
2001 Touring exhibition of original artwork of Portrait of Britain. 17 different venues
David Mach. Galeria Communale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, Italy
2000The Mild Bunch. APT Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Species. Galerie Jérome de Noirmont, Paris, France
1999The National Portrait. commissioned for the Self Portrait Zone, The Dome, Greenwich, London, United Kingdom
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