Review: David Mach: Precious Light: King James Bible, A Celebration, 1611-2011, City Art Centre

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David Mach: Precious Light: King James Bible, A Celebration, 1611-2011

City Art Centre


TOWERING over the reception desk at the City Art Gallery, three silver figures are suspended on jacks-shaped crosses. The figure’s screams don’t extend past the hundreds of spikes radiating from their bodies, but their presence is felt through all five floors of the Precious Light exhibition.

This depiction of the crucifixion dwarfs the rest of the show. It’s so huge that it’s best seen through the window from across the road.

It is not the main Golgotha sculpture but the Christ figure on a traditional cross hung in the second-floor landing that is the most haunting. The thin gaps in Die Harder’s wicker-basket texture of coathangers morph and ripple as you move up the escalator, making the figure shimmer intensely in the light. His pain feels real.

Upstairs, Mach’s collages form snapshots of biblical scenes taken in modern settings. They’re packed with people. Like a series of biblical Where’s Wally? images, they invite closer inspection. They also require a lot of patience. In the best of these busy collages, if you look closely enough, each character or element has a unique story.

It is the variations on the crowd scene set-up that are the most emotionally engaging, however. The people-free beach landscape of The Plague of Night, a tiny girl alone at the front, was the most gripping of the collages on display.

Similarly, in The Last Judgement triptych, the enormous eyes through which we watch the scene are far more memorable than the apocalyptic chaos glimpsed through them. Also featured are matchstick-sculpture heads of Jesus and the Devil, which were ceremonially burnt earlier in the exhibition’s run. Pleasantly creepy, the Jesus head has not been blackened by the fire, but remains pale. Although much less interesting – because setting fire to an effigy of Jesus is undeniably interesting – the Devil head has a more immediate effect, its sunken eyes inviting the viewer in.

Runs until October 16