Matthew Harding is an innovative Australian artist/designer engaged in a diverse practice of sculpture, public art and design. Trained in the visual arts, construction industries and various craft traditions, Matthew pushes the boundaries of materials and process producing sculptural forms and design pieces in stone, wood, metal, glass and ephemeral media. Whether carving delicate fine art pieces, prototyping designs or working on large-scale public sculpture, Matthew creates objects that feed the spirit.
In a career spanning almost three decades Matthew has produced a substantial body of work across a wide range of artistic disciplines. Although he began his career in the 2d mediums of painting, drawing and printmaking, his practice currently focuses on large-scale public artworks, sculptural exhibition pieces, craft objects and furniture design.
Integral to Matthew’s practice are the processes of conceptualisation, design and fabrication of his work. He is much noted for his stainless steel forms, both mirror polished and exo-skeletal; however Matthew is equally at home carving figurative granite and wood or weaving delicate monofilament. In any medium, Matthew is constantly driven to push the boundaries of the material and conventional process.
During the previous decade Matthew has exhibited his signature steel forms consistently in national sculpture awards across Australia, including the prestigious McClelland National Sculpture Survey and Award (2007, 2010, Peoples Choice Award 2010); the National Sculpture Prize (NGV 2003); the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, Wyndham City Council Acquisitive Award and Popular Choice Award 2004) and Sculpture by the Sea (1999, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011 recipient: Helen Lempriere Scholarship 2010).
In recent years large scale public projects have constituted the majority of Matthew’s work, and visitors enjoy his works in public places across Australia and abroad- from the 70th floor lobby of the new 103 storey Four Seasons Tower in Guangzhou, China (Neo 2011) to the bustling corner of Burke and Elizabeth St in Melbourne’s CBD (Mercury Rising 2009) to the vast stretch of the Pilbara (Chrysalis 2010), the front entrance of Tasmania’s new MONA gallery (sculptural entry façade 2011) and dotted across the nations capital where Matthew lived for 10 years, his many public art pieces there becoming a much valued part of the cultural framework of the city (ACT Veterans Park Memorial Sculpture 2012) (Ebb and Flow 2010) (ACT Memorial 2006) (Craft ACT entrance artworks 2003) (Kambah sheep 2002) (The Pods 2001) (The Cushion 2001) (The Bogong Moths, National Museum of Australia 2001) (Entrance sculptures Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve 2000) (Curtin bird sculptures and artworks 1999).
Alongside his art practice Matthew has guest lectured and taught in various higher education institutions across the country including the ANU and the University of Tasmania. In addition, cross-cultural collaboration and skill sharing/ transference is a particular area of interest for Matthew and he has actively participated in many cultural exchange platforms in Australia and abroad including symposia, collaboration and residencies. This unique interest has seen him carve ice in Japan (Inami International Wood Sculpture Camp, 1999), build sand sculptures in Russia (St Petersburg International Festival of Sand Sculpture, 2011), sculpt wooded furniture in Sweden (Joint International Collaboration, Mariestad 2008), carve marble in Tuscany (Studio SEM Pietrasanta, Italy, 1998 & 2005) and brought him face to face with Maoi (Easter Island Collaboration, Canberra Multicultural Festival, 1993).
Having studied design under George Ingham at the ANU’S Canberra School of Art from 1992-1995, Matthew remains committed to his design practice, Matthew produces innovative and exceptional bespoke design pieces utilising his unique sculptural sensibility and refined craftsmanship. He is noted for the elegant woven series (1993-2009) of which the Poise chair (2007) was exhibited in the Cecily and Colin Rigg Design Award 2009 at the NGV Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Matthew has also exhibited his furniture pieces internationally at the Milan Furniture Fair (2003) and the Annual Furniture Society Conference in Savannah, USA. (2004). He has been a regular exhibitor in Sydney’s Workshopped (2004-06-07) and in Melbourne’s Fringe Furniture (2007-08-09). In 2010 Matthew was a guest speaker at Melbourne’s renowned AGIdeas conference where he spoke about the juncture of sculpture and design.
Internationally Matthew’s wood sculptures are much sought after by collectors and are part of several important private and public collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Art. His Fireseed series were exhibited at SOFA, Chicago (2002, 2004) and at Collect, Victorian Albert Museum, London(2004).
While diverse in materials and processes, Matthew’s works demonstrate a common theme and investigation into the experiential aspect of form and materiality. He creates objects to be interacted with, touched, sat on, objects that reflect and morph; objects which have a vital and poetic relationship to the environment they are in and the people who interact with them. He is particularly noted for his unique sculptural seating, playful volumes that offer comfort, tactility and moments of contemplation (the Cushion 2001) (Industrial Midden 2008). Furthermore, Matthew’s work has been noted for an inherent dialectic investigation, challenging notions of perception, reflection and deception. In the use of highly polished stainless steel to construct sensual fluid forms (Mercury Rising 2009) he creates a tension between form and the inherent nature of a material, equally at play in the triangulated strength of his skeletal wireframe sculptures, (Tryst 2009) or his delicately woven yet deceptively strong chairs (Poise 2007). Throughout his body of work Matthew continues this underlying investigation into dualistic relationships and tension; of growth to decay, strength to fragility, nature to humanity.
Matthew’s work has been exhibited widely as part of solo and group exhibitions in Australia, London, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States. He has received several grants, fellowships and awards including ‘People Choice Award’ McClelland National Sculpture Survey, 2010; the ‘Helen Lempriere Scholarship’, Sculpture by the Sea, 2010; the ‘Concept and Innovation Award’ The Australian International Furniture Fair, 2007; ‘The Inaugural Studio SEM Scholarship, 2005; Rosalie Gascoigne Award, 2005; Wyndham City Council Acquisitive Award and the ‘Popular Choice Award’ for the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award, 2004; an artsACT Creative Fellowship, Canberra Act, 2003, ‘First Prize’ in the Inaugural ‘Outside’ site-specific Sculpture Symposium, Alice Springs, NT, 2001 and, in 1998, Matthew was a recipient of the Churchill Fellowship.
Matthew’s work is part of several important public and corporate collections nationally and internationally, including National Gallery of Australia; Artbank; Australian National University, ACT; The Boston Museum of Fine Art, USA; The Royal Collection, England; Inami Sculpture Park, Japan; Vanuatu Parliament, Vanuatu; Wing Tai Holdings, Singapore and private collections in Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.