A Turner Prize nomination, Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts and election to the board of the National Portrait Gallery are just a few of Scottish artist David Mach’s endless accomplishments. In 2004, the University of Dundee gave David the apt title, ‘Professor of Inspiration and Discovery’ and after spending just one short hour with him hearing stories about his upbringing and looking round his art-packed studio, I can easily see why.
David grew up in Fife, Scotland, with a mother who devoured the arts; she watched every film, read every book and listened to every song under the sun; from Dostoyevsky to cowboy books and Frank Sinatra to gypsy music. David’s eccentric, romantic and cultured family was unlike any other on the East Neuk. He recalls spending time with his Polish father’s family – some of whom survived labour camps in Siberia – vodka-drinking, chain-smoking, accordion-playing beautiful men with black swept back hair. A little boy from Fife, David said he would just sit back and watch, mouth agape. All of which translates into his art, which is packed to the brim with life, action, love and passion. From collages to sculptures, every inch of his work tell a story.
He is unaware, however, of the real motive for my visit: I want to ask him to create the cover for Diplomat!
Mach’s artistic style is based on the compilation of mass-produced objects, with everyday household items, including magazines, newspapers, car tyres, match sticks and coat hangers, often constructed in public spaces. Over the years he has made his mark with a range of major works of art including: Temple of Tyre in Edinburgh, the Sumo Wrestlers It Takes Two in Marseilles, the brick Train at Darlington, the Big Heids off the M8 and the UK’s Portrait of a Nation – an epic collage, commissioned for the Millennium Dome.
The biggest exhibition of his career so far is David’s ‘Precious Light’ project launched in 2011 to celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible. It took five years and 27 people to create the collection which he funded with around £1 million of his own money. Part of the show included his Die Harder installation: a sculpture of the crucifixion made with 3,000 coat hangers displayed in Southwark Cathedral. Anticipating huge controversy, David was surprised by the viewers’ reaction. ‘It moved people, and, if you’re involved with what you’re doing, you really can’t ask for anything else as an artist.’
It is with some trepidation that I make my request. Thank goodness he says yes and agrees to create an exclusive cover especially for Diplomat.
But this time, there isn’t a match or wire coat hanger in sight: David’s new project is based on pins. And thousands of them. ‘Pins are probably the most obvious material I’ve used in a long time,’ he reflects. ‘They’re the least original as a material, certainly, but I find myself completely overwhelmed by the possibilities they present.’
For Diplomat’s December cover, David created an exclusive vase he entitled Orange Surf, made with white and orange pins. Celebrating what he does best with his sculptures, the vase is certainly beautiful and makes something extraordinary from everyday, mundane objects. Taking his inspiration from the markings on a sea horse, the pattern reminds him of some kind of code or a DNA printout. The coating on the pinheads creates a mother of pearl sheen to the vase.
Our cover is one of David’s first vases, and he’s now embarked on many new pieces using these pins. ‘The pins give me endless possibilities in my search for colour, pattern and form and I find myself chasing after that, kicking off with a series of vases.’ These other vases are inspired by a range of things from Joan Miró’s animal markings, to Damien Hirst’s spot paintings.
It takes about 250,000 pins to make one vase. David admits to loving the extravagance of the numbers and extraordinary effort required to make each piece. Which is why, Diplomat’s inspiring cover is of course, classic David Mach!
Diplomat is incredibly grateful to have the support of David and his team.