Rare opportunity to see Fife artist David Mach at work on new sculpture

David Mach at work on his latest sculpture Odyssey. Pic: Jim Payne.
David Mach at work on his latest sculpture Odyssey. Pic: Jim Payne.

The public had a rare opportunity to watch an international artist at work this week as David Mach began creating a large-scale sculpture in Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries (DCL&G).

The Royal Academician began constructing his latest work, Odyssey, on Monday and the gallery was opened to allow visitors to see the installation take shape.

David Mach at work in Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. Pic: Jim Payne.

David Mach at work in Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. Pic: Jim Payne.

Once completed, the exhibition will run at the Fife venue until Sunday, February 2, 2020.

For this installation, Mach is returning to using newspapers in the construction to create the appearance of dynamic, fluid movement, with six tonnes of The Sunday Post spilling out of a shipping container.

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Visitors have until 5pm today to watch David Mach at work on his latest sculpture. Pic: Jim Payne.

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Speaking to The Press, David said: “We are putting together this installation and it is something I have been doing for around 38 years or so.

“I stopped around 15-20 years ago as galleries weren’t allowed to do things because of space – I wanted to punch holes in walls and dig holes in the floors!

“We were on our fifth installation, where, I think, it was in Galway, when they let me dig a great big dirty hole in the middle of the floor with a JCB and I had stuff pouring out of that.

“But this one is a bit safer, we can’t really do that here!

“We are using objects that people would know – we are using sea containers. They are part of common ground that links everbody.

“I like using things like that and newspapers are the same. They aren’t traditional art material, but they are things in our lives and I like using stuff that links me to you.

“You might think I am a complete waste of space and what is this all about, or you might be an art lover, but the fact is we are all linked and I like to reinforce these links and push boundaries.

“We arrange the objects in the space and it is quite architectural.”

David continued: “Sea containers carry the world’s stuff. We make, we produce, we trade. We’re obsessed with it. It’s in our genes.

“We use these boxes to hold our ideas and designs.

“They travel the globe with our history and our culture in one long continuous journey.

“It’s no wonder they appear like Greek temples, their long ribbed sides replicating pillars, their short gable ends holding the doors to the Aladdin’s Cave inside.”

It’s a return to Fife for the artist, who is originally from Methil.

In the 1980s he paved the way for installation art with his first sculpture, a giant Polaris submarine made from car tyres.

Much of his early work was created from enormous intricate constructions of newspapers, none of which were fixed with glue, nails or screws.

Since then he has worked with match heads, pianos, full-size billiard tables, dishwashers and coat-hangers.

David explained why he decided to return to using newspapers for this particular sculpture.

“There are a couple of big shows coming up and we needed big pieces to put in there, but newspapers had always been on my mind,” he said.

“I was waiting for an opportunity to use them again, and I guess when you have all of this environmental stuff it has a bit more poignancy.

“It also has to do with communication and all the different means we have to communicate now and how we don’t still seem to be able to communicate all that well!”

But does he feel nervous about the public watching him while he works?

He said: “No I like that - I like talking to folk.

“It livens it up and it feels like a performance then.

“These pieces are as close as I can get to me being in a band on stage ... so you are engaging with the people who come into the space.

“They aren’t standing there applauding your work but it has that same live quality - you are there doing it in front of people.

“You want people to be thrilled, for the hairs on the back of their neck to stand up and to be moved.

“Generally the audience’s response has been really good wherever I have gone.”

He added: “This will take a lot of effort to put together - it isn’t thrown together and called art.

“It is manipulated and formed. I want people to come along and have a look.”

To coincide with his exhibition at DCL&G, ONFife will be displaying Mach’s portrait of his father, entitled Dad, a striking sculpture of a head made from coat-hangers, as part of major rehang of the permanent collection at Kirkcaldy Galleries.

Lesley Botten, interpretation team leader, ONFife Cultural Trust, said: “Staging Odyssey has been a logistical challenge and taken months of planning but we’ve really enjoyed working on this ambitious installation.

“We are now very excited to see it come together.

“ I’m looking forward to seeing how our visitors’ respond.

“We hope as many as possible take up the invitation to come along and see the work progress next week, a very rare chance to watch a leading artist at work and an installation being created.”

The exhibition is supported by the Fife Group, with Briggs Marine supplying shipping buoys.

This exhibition is part of VisitScotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 which has a year-long programme of events and activities to shine a spotlight on these vital elements of our landscape.

It runs with a hashtag of #YCW2020.

Visitors have until 5pm today (Friday) to watch David Mach at work.

David Mach: Odyssey is a free exhibition which runs until February 2, at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. Opening times at onfife.com