Chester Cathedral to host David Mach Golgotha installation

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral - Credit: Archant

David Mach’s awe-inspiring Golgotha sculpture is coming to Chester Cathedral. Janet Reeder went along to meet him

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral - Credit: Archant

David Mach is the internationally renowned Turner prize nominee whose work inspires extreme reactions .

In fact it was the disdain with which one critic regarded a sculpture made from matches that spurred him on to create some of his most powerful pieces, such as the Jesus Christ head, which has been on display at Chester cathedral over the past few months.

‘I got a review for one of the first shows I ever did it was a kind of put down where the critic said “this guy - he’s like one of those prisoners - the kind that make tower bridge out of matchsticks”. And I thought well. What’s wrong with matches? ‘

Plus he saw the dramatic potential of the medium - he could set things alight, which is exactly what he did with the 12,000 matches which complete the Christ.

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral with vice-dean, Canon Peter Howell-Jones

Sculptor, David Mach , at Chester Cathedral with vice-dean, Canon Peter Howell-Jones - Credit: Archant

‘It sounds naff doesn’t it - what do you make your sculptures of - bronze? Diamonds? No. Matches,’ says Mach, who although hitting the milestone 60 this month could definitely get away with knocking a decade or more off his age.

‘But you can make something quite powerful. A Jesus Christ head that’s one hell of a thing to take on. I’m not religious but I am well aware of all that stuff. You just try to take it in and not override people’s feelings about things.’

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Scottish-born Mach is heavily influenced by Pop Art and consumerism, and explores materiality on a grand scale, by bringing together multiples of mass–produced objects, such as magazines, newspapers and car tyres, in large scale installations.

He explains that the process to create a sculpture like Jesus Christ takes months of work with models and moulds constructed over several weeks and each match applied one by one and glued individually and he likes to use real people as models for his work, although his choice for the Christ seems controversial in itself.

‘It was a guy who worked for me on a show I did about the King James Bible in Edinburgh in 2011. The women in the place hated him. He would say something and he’d just set their teeth on edge,’ he tells me over tea in the Cathedral refectory.

‘He was very eccentric but he got more and more hairy and more Christ like at time went on. He had this great face and I like using real people. It’s best to use someone you know and the guy had a lot of character. Nuts. But he had a lot of character.’

The Jesus Christ sculpture has introduced visitors to Mach’s work but now they can prepare for the main event, the artist’s awe-inspiring Golgotha sculpture which was created from thousands of coathangers as part of the King James Bible exhibition and which goes on display in time for the Easter celebrations.

Golgotha depicts the crucifixion in a visceral way. The coathanger spikes convey terror and suffering far more than the untroubled surface of marble or metal. Of course, the cathedral is absolutely delighted they were able to bring such a major contemporary artwork to Chester.

In fact it was a call from marketing officer Emma Roberts that set everything in motion.

‘I phoned David up. We had seen his Crucible at Gloucester cathedral and another of his pieces, Die Harder and they’re absolutely jaw dropping, so thought we must have something like that here.’ she explains.

‘We’ve never had anyone of David’s calibre here before so I think it is really important for the cathedral and for Chester and the region.’

Visitors to Chester can prepare to be enthralled. At the Edinburgh show the reactions were quite overwhelming .

‘I’ll tell you what. when we opened that show in Edinburgh people were just amazed, they’d come up and grab a hold of you and some people were crying, unable to speak. I had five weeks of that. it freaked me out. Eventually I said for eff sake pull yourself together!’ says Mach.

‘I’d been warned off it. The more I said I was going to do this thing about the King James bible the more people said don’t do it Dave don’t do it. It sat there and festered before I took the plunge and did it. Against everybody’s advice.’

Early on in his career he managed to upset some art lovers with Polaris, a submarine consisting of 6,000 tires built of the South Bank of the river Thames and which resulted in the death of a man who set it alight and in the process set fire to himself.

He makes sculptures from bricks and installations from old phone boxes and shows me pictures of hold-ups on his mobile phone, decorated with images taken from Commando comics, which are amongst his new work.

Is Chester cathedral is ready for a display of sexy hosiery depicting cartoon battle scenes? Who can tell? The Cathedral now has plans to hold an ambitious contemporary art show next year with pieces from the likes of Damien Hurst and Mach himself, so watch this space.

The Jesus Christ sculpture is currently on display in the Undercroft of Chester Cathedral and the colossal Golgotha installation opens to the public in the South Transept on 18 March – 1 May 2016.