David Mach, Robert Burns Match Heads, 2008

David Mach (b. 1956 Methil, Fife)

These life-size sculptures of poet Robert Burns are made of hundreds of match-heads. One was set alight to launch StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, to mark the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth. This sculpture has been blackened by fire while the other is still intact, creating a dramatic contrast between the two heads.

The artist made his first match head sculpture in 1982. He made the decision to use live matches as a material after a critical review of his work where a reviewer compared his use of thousands of newspapers in an installation to an amateur craftsperson building models out of match sticks. The artist then decided to try making art out of this everyday material, but with the key difference that he uses live matches. The first work, Kinskihead, was set alight by mistake, but the change undergone by the matches was a revelation and is now a deliberate part of the practice for some works.

The artist has said of this everyday material that ‘There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the subject matter and of course they all have that lethal incendiary device capability. In fact you can describe three clear lives to these sculptures; the original head with colour; the performance of burning it; and the burned head, instantly aged black and white version of the original. Not bad for a nothing material’.

 David Mach, Robert Burns Match Heads

Artist Biography

David Mach studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of art from 1974 to 1979. In 1983, his first large scale public sculpture involved the use of 6,000 tyres to create an image of the Polaris submarine, sited beside the Hayward Gallery. Many of his works relate to an interest in the impact of art in public spaces, as is typified for example by the Big Heids work in a prominent site on the M8 motorway.

He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1988 and became Honorary Professor of Sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art in 1999 and Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2000.