I am, by nature, a bit of a procrastinator. That’s the only explanation I have for the fact that the David Mach exhibition was in Edinburgh, right next to the station, from the 13th of July and I only got round to seeing it on Sunday 16th October, which was its final day. I’m not entirely sure how I’ve been near Edinburgh for three years and never gone into the City Art Centre, full stop. It’s a fabulous space.
The exhibition, Precious Light, was over 5 full floors. The subtitle is King James Bible, a Celebration, 1611-2011. Which is intriguing in itself since the artwork didn’t look to be the most obviously reverent. It’s been very heavily advertised – on the buses, on posters, in magazines – and I’d got used to seeing two very contrasting pieces shown. One is the sculpted head with a lot of spikes coming out of it, eg here, and the other was the picture on the bus advert (which I didn’t realise at the time was a collage) of a brightly-lit scene of which I can only really remember the doves, the blue sky and a building with a dome.
The massive triple crucifixion sculpture on the ground floor has been catching my eye every time I’ve walked out of the station for months (sorry for the cameraphone picture, there are many much much better ones on the internet). Although it’s in a big space, it absolutely fills the space and is massively imposing. Clearly I’d not read any reviews before I went, because I didn’t realise that the sculptures are made of coathangers! It does make them seem a little less dramatic.
On one of the floors upstairs there was a little maquette of this piece and it just looked so, so touchable: I wanted to stroke it! It was a lovely silky-looking piece with small, clean box girders. I did like the texture of the visible welds on the real crosses, the different faces of the crucified figures and the overall strength of the piece.
Given that this was the most-advertised image, I was surprised to find there was only one other similar sculpture in the exhibition: the crucifixion in the stairwell (is it still a stairwell if it’s escalators?)
The large majority of the exhibition was made up of David Mach’s fantastically detailed collages on Biblical themes. This is where I wished I’d been to the exhibition earlier, and been back more than once, because any one of these collages is something that you could look at for hours. They are made up of magazine pieces. I was intrigued to see, in the David Mach studio that had been set up in the City Art Centre, file boxes of “dogs” and “clouds” and so on. A collage had been made in this studio over the duration of the exhibition and I’m very sorry I missed that.
I loved the use of light in the collages and the way that scale and perspective were used. Usually the figure and so on were all to scale, but when they weren’t, the mind was thrown off in a really interesting way.
He envisages a really compelling hell, although heaven is kind of obnoxiously saccharine. I loved all the plagues, especially the plague of frogs. The people in that collage are reacting like people: terrified, intrigued, oblivious. And the frogs are awesome. The whole picture is so busy and full of detail, and incredibly dramatic when you step back and take it in as a whole.
My very favourite collage was Daniel in the lion’s den. It didn’t have the complexity of the others, and it was stuck away in a corner, but the illuminated Daniel and the jeering paparazzi outside the cage made it incredibly striking.
The final type of artwork in the exhibition was two heads made of matches – Jesus and the Devil. By the time I saw them, they’d been lit up – there was a video of the Devil going up in a massive ball of flame. So the pieces that I saw were grey-on-grey rather than the pure colours of the original match-heads. Beautiful in a different way.
As usual, a lesson to me that you rarely profit from leaving things till the last minute. I’d have loved to go back for another look (and season tickets had been available). Very glad I did finally squeeze it in though.