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Artist Interview: David Mach discusses his epic installation at Cass Art Glasgow

in Exhibitions and Interviews by Cass Art Staff
Artist Interview: David Mach discusses his epic installation at Cass Art Glasgow

This spring we welcome the acclaimed Scottish artist, and Turner Prize nominee, David Mach to Cass Art Glasgow. Using 5 tonnes of newspaper, Mach will take over the store's Art Space for a six week period to create a colossal artwork, Against the Tide. An artist familiar with pushing the physical boundaries of contemporary sculpture, the piece is a comment on the abundance of information we receive daily and the questions this raises about our contemporary lives. 

We catch up with David as he begins building this epic installation in the Glasgow Art Space...

Hi David! We’re thrilled to have you create your gigantic artwork Against the Tide at Cass Art Glasgow. Can you talk us through the concept behind your large scale installations?

I’ve made these large scale installations all over the world. I started out by working with large amounts of different materials - books, magazines and newspapers - and making quite small sculptures which were quite representational. For example, a Rolls Royce with remainder books, a Henry Moore reclining nude with telephone directories, a steam train with magazines. Eventually these sculptures developed into large scale performance installations – varying from sculptures of 1 or 2 tonnes of material to the largest of 165 tonnes of magazines.

David Mach's installation, Bangers and Mash, at the Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow (2002)

The installations were always performed ‘live’ in front of an audience, with the objects I used changing from city to city. They were a reaction to being nagged by galleries asking me to make small, convenient, sellable things. Things that wouldn’t cause much bother. I wanted to do the exact opposite at that point. I wanted extravagance and bother. I wanted mess and serious inconvenience. I wanted the effort of building, construction and engineering. I wanted, and still want, these installations to take over the space they’re in with tsunami-like energy and speed, to carry all before them, pushing cars and trucks, pianos, statues, motorbikes, boats, furniture and all the other objects of our lives demanding the space they sit in.

David Mach's installation, Incoming, at the Griffin Gallery (2017). Image credit: Griffin Gallery©

Against the Tide will be created using 5 tonnes of newspaper! Can you give us a bit of an insight into the process of installing this epic artwork into the Art Space in Cass Art Glasgow?

To build these installations is quite an effort and, as they vary in size, require teams of assistants to complete. In the case of Against the Tide, the newspapers are laid down and built in layers - one newspaper at a time. That process is quite extreme in its effort but it affords a control of movement and form that is quite elegant and sexy. The newspapers need to be built with speed and precision, there’s no nailing or screwing or gluing, no fixing to slow the process down so the engineering, the applied mechanics of the piece, needs to be clever enough to hold the whole thing together as a permanent fixed work. There’s no intention here to make the work temporary or ephemeral, quite the opposite. The work is physically demanding with a lot of bending and kneeling, a lot of lifting and tearing. As a ‘live‘ performance there’s a lot of movement, a lot of travelling backwards and forwards from material to build and back again - and doing this while an audience watches and talks to you and your team.

David Mach's installation, Like a Virgin, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art (1993)

You’re giving viewers the opportunity to see you building the artwork in the Glasgow Art Space two weeks before the official unveiling. Is it important for you to share this aspect of your art practice with the public?

Building these installations was an effort to get out of the studio and to make work in front of an audience. There’s a ‘warts and all' approach to that. There’s no hiding anything from your audience, no mystery as to how something is made, no secret as to how the installation, the work, the piece, the sculpture gets into the space. I like that connection with an audience very much. It turns simply working in front of people into a performance very quickly.

David Mach's installation, The Great Outdoors, Contemporary Arts Centre Cincinnati (1988)

Your work has been described as ‘big on gesture and big in proportion’ with previous artworks incorporating actual cars and trucks. Can you tell us about your motivation to create artworks on such an epic scale?

My desire for extravagance probably answers this question. I don’t want to be reasonable either. I don’t want what I do to make sense, I don’t want to be conservative. I want to be exciting, annoying, irritating even and I don’t want it to be easy. I want my art to involve work. I’m suspicious when things become too easy, too reasonable. Big, grand, and epic go along with that.

David Mach's installation, Adding Fuel to the Fire, Metronom Gallery Barcelona (1987)

Looking at your portfolio, we see a number of recurring themes– celebrities, religion, art history. Is there a reason why you are attracted to this kind of imagery?

I work in a lot of different ways, a lot of themes have developed over the years. Making collage accelerated that. Flicking through National Geographic magazine for decades to feed them meant looking at multiples of images every day and fed my natural desire to be an ideas monger. There are quite a variety of ideas but they’re probably linked by the processes I use for manufacture, common themes of multiples and ordinary materials. I like my audience to know what I’m using and to even know something of the image I’m making - whether it’s abstract or representational. There’s a recognition factor I try to have in my work to that end so that people know something about it whether they like it or not.

Songwriter-performer Rab Noakes, who will be performing an In-Conversation with David Mach on the 11th April

During the installation period of your upcoming artwork, you’ll be hosting an ‘In-Conversation’ performance in Cass Art Glasgow with songwriter-performer Rab Noakes. What should we expect from this one-off event?

I don’t exactly know how the evening with Rab will go, obviously we want it to be as interesting and as entertaining as possible. I know him as a fantastic musician, an accomplished guitar player, a composer of great tunes and a great performer and lyricist. He’s a very interesting man, very human. I’m sure our chatting will cover a multitude of sins. We’re both Fifers, so there’s a history that’s common to us both. I’m very much looking forward to our evening together, he’s such a creative man I think it’ll be difficult for me not to just sit back and listen to him alone.

Thanks David!

Against the Tide is supported by Herald and Times Group. The artwork will officially be unveiled at Cass Art Glasgow on the 16th of April and exhibited until the 27th of May. From the 3rd April to the 16th April David Mach is opening the installation process up to the public, so you can come and watch him build it.

On the 11th April (6-8pm) Cass Art Glasgow will be hosting an 'In Conversation' performance between David Mach and Songwriter-Performer Rab Noakes. They will address questions raised by the artwork, along with a discussion about life, art and music. 

Feeling inspired?

Book a place at the In Conversation: David Mach & Rab Noakes event on the 11th of April

RSVP for the Private View of Against the Tide on the 16th of April