david mach

Interview: David Mach

We talk to the artist behind Kingston’s iconic tumbling telephone boxes…

David Mach’s Kingston landmark, ‘Out of Order’ has been given a makeover to mark its 30th anniversary. We talk to the artist about its history, his time as a lecturer at Kingston University, and what he has in store for the year ahead

What was your inspiration behind Out of Order? How do you feel about it being such an iconic part of the town?

They were taking the telephone boxes out of service at the time. They were such a significantly British thing I wanted to use them as a material in the same way I used other materials; tyres, magazines, and so on. It was easy to consider that placement in the town for that sculpture. Using big square objects, I wanted something with a curve to lie them along.

I believe you were a lecturer at Kingston University from 1982 to 1986 –  what are your memories of the area during this time? And what was it like lecturing in Kingston and inspiring a young generation of artists?  

My memories are of a completely different time, a different London. I was already working internationally and up and down the UK so I was moving around a lot while I was teaching at Kingston Polytechnic, as it was then. It was an exciting time for me and I enjoyed working with the students and took it very seriously. I was lucky to get the chance of teaching and sculpting the Out of Order commission, both of those things largely due to Ainslie Yule, the Head of Department at the Polytechnic. He gave me the job and immediately built up a good relationship with the town, lucky for me.

What has changed for you and your art in the 30 years the tumbling telephone boxes have been around?

Since then I’ve had a whistle-stop tour of the world, making sculpture of all shapes and sizes, with a vast array of materials. Recently, I’ve been designing architecture for some very exotic locations for wildly exciting projects and I’m also involved in music and writing. Add that to making sculpture and my days are pretty full!

There is also a Mach mosaic in the town, why does this remain more of a secret?

Even I had forgotten about the mosaic, in the old cattle market. It’s no secret, I’m sure there are plenty other works of mine that people aren’t aware of. I make a lot of work, in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different countries, it’s difficult to keep track!

Your installations are bold, what emotions are you trying to draw from people who see them?

I want people to be excited, puzzled, irritated, questioning, delighted, entertained, moved, inspired and uplifted; and if they’d like to throw money after that…that would be greatly appreciated.

What are you working on / have in the pipeline for 2019?

2019 has kicked off with a bang. It’s already busy and won’t calm down until the year is out with six to eight one man shows; a lot of those in Scotland which is unusual for me. I’m working on a couple of very exciting architecture projects, I’ve begun working in prints for the first time seriously, planning to have my first book published this year and possibly record some music. It’ll be very busy.

Where do you live now?

I still live in London. 40 years now, man and boy. It’s still a great town. I’m Scottish of course but I consider myself a Londoner too.

David Mach

The restoration of the telephone boxes was implemented and funded by Kingston First; the Business Improvement District for the town centre, with support from the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Danehurst; property developers of the student accommodation adjacent to the sculpture on Old London Road. For more Kingston history, heritage and news,