In a recent interview with The Telegraph, in reference to his latest exhibition at the City Art Centre, David Mach said the following: “I’m sure I’m going to get accused of hijacking something that I don’t really have massive feelings about. It’s not about me. It’s about what I’m making.”
It is clear from the above quote that Mach considers the intention of the artist to be of little importance when viewing an artwork. This intellectually lazy attitude is flawed: a work cannot be fully comprehended in isolation from its creator. In fact in the case of Precious Light: A Celebration of the King James Bible, it is arguable that Mach’s motivations are more important than the works exhibited.
There is no denying that the biblically inspired sculptures and collages that make up Mach’s contemporary re-telling of the King James Bible are visually arresting. The three enormous crucified figures which dominate the gallery’s entrance, composed of coat hangers – radiate, through barbed surfaces and anguished expressions, the physical and mental torture which according to the sacred text, Christ and two criminals suffered at Golgotha.
However, this veneer of sincerity evaporates when you realise that the primary motivation for Mach’s artistic exploration of the King James is not to express any deep-felt religious devotion, or even interest, but to generate money. In his own words, "I have no desire to make all these things and be poor. I want to be the exact opposite of that."
There is of course nothing wrong with making money through art, but to capitalise on the 400th anniversary of one of the most influential books in the history of mankind for self-gain is morally reprehensible. Not to mention emblematic of the increasingly vapid and money driven nature of contemporary art in the UK. Mach is an astute businessman and knew full well that selecting a polarising subject such as religion for the basis of his exhibition would bring in the crowds, both secular and religious.
The power of religious art lies in the sincerity of the emotion it conveys. Mach’s collages and sculptures may be aesthetically beautiful but are sadly lacking in soul.