David Mach @ City Art Centre

Review by Sarah Hardie | 16 Aug 2011
  • Walking on Water by David Mach

The city has found God, or rather David Mach has found him, and decorated the City Art Centre with his image. Mach’s show Precious Light – unmistakably one set up by the city council – celebrates the 400th anniversary of the King James’ Bible. But what was intended as a gesture towards the achievements of 1611 goes far beyond this: David Mach’s work is important and relevant to our times.

Now, perhaps no amount of creative hanging can compete with the escalators and low-level spotlighting, unequivocally proclaiming “you are in a council-run museum”, but beyond this is Mach’s breathtaking work. His collages, depicting scenes from the Bible on a scale appropriate to the epic stories illustrated, are as exciting as you would expect such slices of visual-culture-cake to be. Mach marries Dali, Escher, Piero della Francesca, Heironymous Bosch and Johan Grimonprez, mixing in fictional scenes from Hollywood films and advertisements.

A small, chapel-like space off the main gallery holds Mach’s version of the Nativity. In this a black Mary lies, skirt above her bump, baby held against her chest, in a shack above the city of Florence. These pictures blur and question the real and unreal. By exposing the constructed nature of the scene, this Nativity succeeds where others fail. It’s a touching image for the contemporary viewer.

Another collage filled with appropriated images from adverts, Heaven – Winter shows people in snowman-building-bliss, and might be expected to fail to appeal to our contemporary needs. Surprisingly, it succeeds. Here it comes down to whether we can look past the falseness of representation and embrace the fiction, buy into the adverts, hoping that one day this image of heaven might turn out to be real. Mach asks this question of the Bible and of our faith in the image. He appeals to the believer in us.

City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh