Holy smoke: Jesus to be burned in name of art

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ONE of Scotland's most celebrated artists has unveiled plans to set faces of Jesus Christ and the Devil ablaze during this year's Edinburgh Festival.

David Mach has been spending months making two busts out of matchsticks which will be set alight on the street outside the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, which is hosting his religious-themed exhibition.

The Fife-born artist also confirmed plans to move his entire London studio to a floor of the centre so visitors can watch him and his staff complete his work.

Mach, best known in Scotland for his Big Heids sculptures on the M8, will also be unveiling four giant crucifix figures made out of coathangers, as well as more than 70 "cinematic" collages inspired by the Bible. He says he wants to use religious themes to "expose the hypocrisies of the contemporary world".

The artist, who admitted having no religious beliefs himself, said he was expecting a lot of interest in the burning of the sculpted heads, but did not anticipate any protests or problems with the authorities.

"We don't really need to ask anyone's permission, we can just burn them outside. I think it is fair enough to burn the head of Jesus if you're going to do the same with the Devil."

He has been planning the exhibition for nearly three years to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 2012. It is costing Edinburgh Cuty Council around 115,000 to stage, and will run from 30 July to 16 October.,

Plans to hang one of the crucifixion figures outside the gallery on Market Street were shelved amid fears over the weather.

Mach said: "We're going to be working right up to the wire and during the exhibition itself, when I'll have a studio installed on one floor of the gallery.

"The main piece will be a huge Calvary tableau, made up of three of the coathanger figures, who will be larger than life-size.

"The devil's head will be around three feet wide. It should be pretty incendiary when it is lit up.

"I'm also doing a smaller match-head sculpture of Christ's head, which will be more life-size. The plan is to light up both of them outside the gallery and then put what is left of them back on display for the remainder of the exhibition."

No stranger to controversy

Born in Methil in 1956, David Mach studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and at the Royal College of Art, London.

He has lived and worked in London since 1982.

He is best known for using everyday mass-produced objects such as newspapers, magazines, car tyres and coathangers in his installations, which often mix social commentary with humour.

He has work in the collections of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, major London galleries, including Tate Britain, and others from San Diego to Tokyo and Auckland.

His best-known work in Scotland, the Big Heids, is on the south side of the M8 in Lanarkshire.

There was controversy over his 160,000 Temple at Tyre installation, built at Leith Docks as part of Edinburgh's failed bid to become Britain's City of Architecture and Design in 1999.