That’s Entertainment | Mach & Materialism

The contemporary Scottish artist David Mach on apocalyptic art and a career spent outside of the mainstream

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There are very few artists who can claim to have made works so controversial that members of the public have burned them down, but one such figure is contemporary art veteran David Mach – the Glaswegian Royal Academy member whose iconic public sculptures, such as the aforementioned life-size replica of a Polaris submarine created in protest of the nuclear arms race back in the 80s, have been courting outrage for nearly 40 years. His latest show Materialism And Mach at the new Zionist chapel turned arts space Anise Gallery in London’s Forest Hill represents something of a mini-retrospective for a man better known for abrasive large-scale works. It features The Thief, a nine-foot agonised crucified figure, painstakingly constructed from hundreds of coat hangers, alongside his very first foray into the realm of virtual reality – a reimagining of his landmark an apocalyptic collage The Destruction of Jericho, which invites visitors to sit inside a car he has parked in the gallery and look out of the windows at the unfolding dystopian scenes of destruction. These works are both complemented by oversized and meticulously detailed collages of Heaven and Hell, which the artist has created to celebrate 400 years of The King James Bible. In this rare interview, Flaunt sat down with one of the UK’s most revered artists to talk public art and punk rock attitude, and find out why he believes that, above everything else, art is entertainment.

What made you want to explore the notion of apocalypse and The Book of Revelations?

Well, the apocalypse is a rolling thing. I'm not predicting it. It's there already. I'm only talking about it a bit in this work because, actually, when I'm working on a project, and, let’s say, I'm doing the heavens, then I'm going, I'm fed up doing the heavens. I'll do some hell (laughs). I have a hundred ideas in my head all the time, and I like to jump from one thing to the other. It's a bit like a band making up a song that is too cheesy, or too heavy, and they'll suddenly switch that up to create something with more melody, because if you are making an album of 12 songs, you don't don’t want them all to be the same – you want to create a surprise, and do something new. I’ve always been like that. I’ve always wanted to things in a different way – exhibit in unusual places and use unusual materials. I mean, using coat hangers to make these Christ figures is something some people find irritating. They are, like, why the hell are you using that? Why don’t you use gold or bronze or oil paint? Some people are snobbish about a coat hanger, and that's weird to me. I don't want to have to deal with that.

Do hierarchies annoy you generally?

Yeah. Don't tell me it can't be done. Our government deals with us like that. Our councils deal with us like that. You know? You can't do this. You can’t do that. It's always been like this. But no one is going to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’m still a punk, in that way. I’m like, let's have a wee extra think about it and do it another way, and that does wind folk up, because then you become something of a smart arse, but once you are smart, you might actually make something rather beautiful and powerful; something that people really think about. The important thing is that you must be doing it for yourself. Not for the audience. You have to feel that nothing is going to stop you making it, and that you are driven to make it, whether even you like it or not. I like things to have double and treble and quadruple meanings. I have a sense of humour in my work, too. I would always hope that comes across.

What made you want to explore religion, are you religious? 

No. These pieces these are an odd thing for me. I created these works to celebrate the 400 year anniversary of the King James Bible, and I only made my mind up to do that because people kept telling me how dystopian and biblical of these colleges I was making were. It got a hold of me of that notion, and I quite liked it. I liked all the drama, more than anything else, and I wanted to create work that was almost like watching a film. I wanted it to be as entertaining to look at as going to watch Die Hard. I want people to really get involved in the work. I don't want you to go into the gallery and just walk past one painting and then, walk to the next one. I'm talking about making work by cutting out little bits of paper and obsessively sticking them with Prit Stick onto a board, which is ridiculous when you think about it. I'm talking about a lump of sculpture that doesn't move. But the question, for me, is always, how can I make the work live, and be exciting.

You’ve got a long career in art. What, ultimately do you think is the purpose of art?

Actually, for me, art is about entertainment. And people don’t like that. They don't like the idea of artists being entertainers, but we are entertainers. It's interesting, because not many people can be that honest. I mean, there is definitely this bourgeois idea that art has access to some sort of higher plane – especially contemporary art – but I don't really believe the claims that are made, et cetera. I've always had a problem with that stuff. Therefore, I've always had a problem working with galleries. I hate conservative stuff. I hate art being lauded like that. I want to see something else. I want to see something good. That’s why I have always made sculptures in swimming pools, in parks, in all sorts of places you would not expect to see it. I have always tried to find a place where you didn't expect to see, art.. I'm a guy who, rather than live in the town, actually rides around the ridge of the town, and occasionally comes down into the town square then goes back up into the ridge. I exist there very well. That’s what I always wanted, because that way you are never part of the mainstream.

Find out more at Anise Gallery here.

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Flaunt Magazine, David Mach, Materialism And Mach, Anise Gallery, Art