Firestarter David Mach burns head of Jesus Christ in "final creative act” of Precious Light exhibition

By Culture24 Reporter | 23 September 2011
A photo of a head on a stick burning under a night sky
© Ewan Arkieson Photography,
“It feels quite different,” David Mach told us in August when discussing the five-floor exhibition which has transported his entire London studio to Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.

“Some places are quite cool. This is not – this is burning hot. It’s really f*****g uncool.”

The wild-eyed pyrotechnic fiend has been true to his word. Having set the head of the devil on fire in an opening performance, Mach has now carried on his one-man crusade against sculpted heads and health and safety by burning a trademark match-head sculpture of Jesus Christ as a “final creative act” of the Precious Light exhibition last night (September 22 2011).

The idea started accidentally, when his first ever buyer set fire to one of his portraits in 1982.

“We realised that these things really go up like a bomb. We loved it,” he says. “I got there and we looked at it and said ‘God, it looks way, way more powerful and it’s aged and all sorts of things.”

The potential for both a performance piece and a “kind of uncontrollable incendiary device” thrilled Mach.

“It’s such a ferocious act of creation,” he adds. “You get a huge ball of flames rushing off it. You’re not going to stop it, there’s no way you can change your mind – you’ve got to go for it.”

The tattered head goes back on display tomorrow (September 24), rejoining 70 works in a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

More pictures from Edinburgh:

A photo of a man setting fire to a sculpted head with a match under a night sky
The fiery performance took place at a private view for collectors© Ewan Arkieson Photography,
A photo of a man in a suit standing next to a sculpted head on a stick
Mach's works have taken over five of the centre's nine floors© Ewan Arkieson Photography,
A photo of a sculpted head on a stick
The artist's materials of choice have included coat hangers, match heads and magazines© Ewan Arkieson Photography,
A photo of a sculpted head on a stick
Mach sees burning as "a creative and metamorphic force" in his work© Ewan Arkieson Photography,
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