Burning of the Totems - Fireside Festival 2010

Now in its 6th year, the Fireside Festival is well on its way to becoming one of Canberra’s most popular winter events. The month-long festival, will be held in August and hosted by members of The Poacher’s Way consortium across a diverse range of lifestyle, food and tourism venues. The Fireside Festival is a Canberra and Region Poacher’s Trail initiative. Bungendore Wood Work’s contribution to the Festival was a “Burning of the Totems” in front of the Gallery on Saturday, August 6.

Seventy people, mostly from Canberra, as well as locals out for a walk, and passing travellers, stopped to cluster around the totems. Marshmallows were toasted over an open fire and all watched in awe at the spectacular effect as the chainsaw carved totems were burnt using a large gas torch.

The sculptured totems were created by artist Matthew Harding and Wood Works Artistic Director, David Mac Laren. The day had began much earlier with a handful of talented woodworkers gathering at David Mac Laren’s property to create and carve a series of totems in Cyprus pine that had been rescued from St Mary’s Church in Bungendore.

The burning of the sculptures resulted in a beautiful charred finish highlighting shape and texture. The sculptures are currently on display outside Bungendore Wood Works Gallery.

was born in Sydney in 1964 and initially trained in carpentry and joinery. He went on to study art at Hamilton TAFE and later at the ANU School of the Art, Canberra, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Visual Arts (Honours) in 1995. In 1998 he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study figurative sculpture in Western Europe and more recently was a recipient of a prestigious 2003 ACT Creative Arts Fellowship.

Over the past two decades Harding has been selected for numerous prestigious awards exhibitions, including the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award in 2003, the 2003 National Sculpture Prize at the National Gallery of Australia, Chicago's 2002 Sculptural Objects and Functional Art exhibit, Sculpture by the Sea in 2002 and 1999, Surface and Form - Craft West Perth in 2002, and the Inami International Wood Sculpture Symposium, Japan in 1999. He has held three solo exhibitions, most recently Concentric, a collection of recent furniture pieces, at Craft ACT Gallery in 2001.

He won the Outsite site-specific sculpture symposium prize at Alice Springs in 2001 and the National Carving Competition in 1999. Harding has undertaken many commissions, including major public art projects in the ACT, Sydney, Newcastle areas and in China.

Harding's commitment to the development of Australia's design identity has seen him lecture in design at the Canberra School of Art and speak at international design forums including last year's Designing Futures Conference in Perth. In June 2003 he visited the Australian School of Fine Furniture in Launceston to run a project with current students before heading to Perth to undertake a residency with Craft West. Matthew is now based in Melbourne.

He brings a unique sculptural vision to his work as a designer. As well as creating visually challenging and radically functional pieces of furniture, Harding maintains a full-time practice as a professional sculptor, regularly undertaking large-scale civic art projects. His work is characterised by a deep appreciation of form, structure and function, shaped by a background encompassing the visual arts, design and construction industries. He is accomplished in working with a broad range of materials including wood, stone, steel and bronze. Harding has evolved a lateral and inter-disciplinary approach to design. His functional art pieces are characterised by imaginative structural solutions, a geometric articulation of form and an ability to push the bounds of accepted possibilities.

"My design aesthetic has its foundations in my father's passion for boat construction and design. He describes a good hull line as 'poetry in motion'. Other strong aesthetic influences stem from natural geometries and my attempts to explore connections between the macro and micro worlds around us.”

Thursday 17 June 2010