I met the artist David Mach in 1995, when he was building an installation out of newspapers called Whirl, at the Summerlee Museum, in Coatbridge, Scotland. We met for a short documentary I was making about his work, and spent the day filming him as he ripped up old copies of the Daily Record and tiered them into undulating sweeps that slowly filled out the space. It was incredible to watch and the resulting work was breath-taking.
Mach’s always had that ability to make something beautiful out of the mundane - sculptures from matchsticks (Elvis), coat-hangers (Gorilla), magazines. Being a sculptor informs all Mach does, as he once said:
“Being a sculptor leads everything I do. Every project I take on starts from that point. I believe that an artist must be an ideasmonger responding to all kinds of physical location, social and political environments, to materials, to processes, to timescales and budgets. I also believe that sculpture just about encompasses everything - a painting can be a sculpture, a TV ad can be a sculpture, a dance, a performance, a film, a video - all of thse kinds of art and many more can be sculpture.
When I have ideas I want to make them, and not just some of them, but all of them. As a result of that my sculpture covers a multitude of sins. I like to work in as many different materials as possible. It’s no understatement to say I am a materials junkie - jumping from highly-painted realistic cast fibreglass pieces to sculpture with coathangers, to a thatched barn roof laced with fibre-optics to designs for camera obscures (or at least the buildings to house them) and layouts for parks.”
It was 1983 when he first came to national prominence with Polaris, a submarine constructed out of 6,000 tires, built on the South Bank of the River Thames, at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Polaris proved highly controversial with some, as Mach described the work as a protest against the nuclear arms race, which was then a hot-love-in between Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan. It also led certain journalists, who really should have known better, feigning outrage and getting paid to write tedious column inches about “What is Art?” Things reaced a tragic height, when one disgruntled (though arguably mentally ill) individual, decided to destroy Mach’s sculpture by setting fire to it. Unfortunately, he set fire to himself and later died in hospital.
In 2008, Mach reconstructed Polaris as part of his Size Doesn’t Matter show in Haarlem, Holland. This short film follows Mach through the construction process to the finished work.
Bonus pix, clips and interview with David Mach, after the jump…