Friday, February 20, 2009

The artist who makes striking sculptures from matchsticks

Artists like to stick out and show their flair - and none more so than David Mach who creates colourful creatures from tens of thousands of matchsticks.

Mr Mach makes animals such as gorillas, grizzly bears and rhinos by combining an array of matchsticks with different coloured tips.

The 52-year-old immortalises the animals in such detail that his pieces sell for between £20,000 and £35,000 each.



His 15-inch high gorilla - with flared nostrils and a fierce open mouth - required 30,000 matches and took three months as each match was painstakingly glued onto a mould.

The Scot, who works from a studio in London, recreates the animals' features and different skin shades using 14 different coloured matchsticks imported from Japan.

He said: 'I like to make figures that are instantly recognisable and make people take notice.

'The animals are a joy and a challenge to make because they have difficult features such as antlers and horns.

'I love to use a variety of material for my pieces. I try and use common things, like matchsticks or coat-hangers, because people know exactly what they are. These items are in everyone's lives but are almost invisible.'



Mr Mach and his wife Lesley, who helps him run the studio, have made more than 350 of them so far.

The sculptures are crafted by firstly making a clay mould of the head and creating a fibreglass or plastic version from it. The matchsticks are then stuck on using wood glue.

But although their work is labour-intensive and much sought after, their sculptures are not always kept for posterity.

Despite all the work that goes into them - sometimes the couple burn the figureheads at exhibition launches.

Mrs Mach, 51, said that some customers even request that the pieces are burned to achieve an eerie effect.

She said: 'They are highly flammable and when they go up it's highly dramatic. It can send flames shooting 6ft into the air but because they're just matchsticks, it's all over in a few seconds.'

The practice of setting fire to them came after the couple accidentally set fire to one of them in the studio.



Mrs Mach said: 'A lot of people think that David is something of a pyromaniac but it's really not the case - he just enjoys working with matchsticks.'

But it's not just matchsticks that hold a fascination - his style is based on flowing assemblages of mass-produced objects and he has experimented with pieces made of magazines, newspapers and car tyres.

He once crafted a 12ft-high sculpture of a gorilla out of coat-hangers which sold for £200,000.

Other works include a public sculpture depicting an LNER Class A4 steam engine made from 185,000 bricks on the A66 near Darlington, County Durham.

He has exhibited all over the world and in 1988 was nominated for the Turner Prize.

In 2000 he joined the Royal Academy of Arts as Professor of Sculpture.

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