Matthew's cover image


Year of Award: 1998 Award State: New South Wales Arts - Visual > Sculpture
To develop talent for figurative sculpture in wood and stone - Italy, Germany, France, UK

Sadly, Matthew Harding passed away on the 22nd of February 2018.

An obituary about his life and how much his sculptures contributed to the body of work in Australia and around the world can be found -


Matthew Harding loves wood. He knew at five years old that he wanted to work with it. At Matthew’s vast concrete studio on a cold spring day in regional Victoria, he invited me to sit on one of his early chairs. Constructed of wood and fishing line, they resembled giant distorted tennis racquets. Gingerly, I sat on one. I didn’t fall off and it was surprisingly comfortable. I could have sat there in equilibrium all afternoon, looking at the storm clouds through the skylight of Matthew’s massive, high-ceilinged studio.

But there were other intriguing things to see. I left the supportive curves of the giant tennis racquet and we walked around the studio looking at works in progress. There were thick steel cables wound into various shapes, held together with big vices, thin metal strands twisted into spirals, and lumps of granite waiting to be carved.

Matthew’s Churchill Fellowship in 1998 (New South Wales) took him to Europe to study figurative sculpture in wood and stone. When he was young he was drawn to classical sculptures in marble and the Fellowship showed him that these ancient traditions survived. Matthew carried his sketchbook/diary around with him, and he still does. ‘I couldn’t live without pen and paper,’ he said. He told me that the Fellowship allowed him to observe, think and reflect, as well as to be the most prolific he has ever been.

Matthew carves in wood and stone but his reputation for steel sculptures has grown in recent years. When I met him he was working on an Australian-Turkish Anzac memorial commissioned for the City of Melbourne. His concept was inspired by the seeds of friendship between the two nations of Australia and Turkey, symbolised by the casuarina and the pine, representing hope and rebirth.

Matthew’s commissioned sculptures are in towns and cities across Australia, as well as overseas. An example is ‘Mercury Rising’ (2009) at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets in Melbourne. When we met he was completing two sculptures, one being large, woven knot forms for the Newcastle Foreshore, and another, 14 metres high will grace the forecourt of a new building in Collins Street, Melbourne.

Matthew has been part of numerous national sculpture exhibitions, such as the prestigious McClelland Award in 2007, 2010 and 2012, as well as winning the 2014 National Sculpture Award for his work ‘Void’ in which graceful, stainless steel spirals are poised against the bush background. Awards include the National Sculpture Prize (National Gallery of Australia, 2003); the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award for 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008; the Wyndham City Council Acquisitive Award and the Popular Choice Award for 2004.

‘I find myself pushing the threshold of ideas and bending the limits of materials,’ said Matthew. His mind bubbles with a frenetic fountain of ideas. He often wakes at 4.00 a.m. with teeming thoughts about the Big Bang theory, the complexity of patterns and the way energy can travel, while trying to translate these ideas into three-dimensional models in his head and how they could be made in steel or stone. ‘I enjoy the process, the artistic journey as much as the finished result.’

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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