The stainless steel rope-like knots, inspired by Newcastle’s maritime history, are popular with both passers-by and children who like to climb.
The Honeysuckle sculpture, grey by day and illuminated by night, is just one of a vast body of work left behind by artist Matthew Harding, who died suddenly last week, aged 53.
With at least 13 works also dotted around Canberra, the former Novocastrian is credited with creating more public artworks than any other single artist in the nation’s capital.
But he also produced dozens of works throughout the country and around the world, and his sculptures are now found in private and public collections in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Vanuatu, Singapore, Cambodia, Canada and New Zealand.
When his Honeysuckle sculpture was unveiled in 2015, Harding told the Newcastle Herald he was “very proud” of his Newcastle heritage.
‘‘My great- and great-great-grandfathers were captains on the steamships in Newcastle Harbour and their original coastal and harbourmaster certificates still hang with pride and place in the family home at Raymond Terrace,’’ he said at the time.
In 1997, Harding was commissioned by Hunter Development Corporation to create the Honeysuckle Bollards.
“The form of the Honeysuckle Bollards is a skeletal reference to Honeysuckle’s past industry, each bollard incorporating 1 of 18 cast impressions reflecting the industrial, cultural and natural heritage of the site,” Harding said on his website.
Harding spent much of his adult years in Canberra, but was most recently living with his family in Trentham, Victoria.
He first qualified as a carpenter and joiner in Newcastle in the early 1980s, before focusing on art, moving to Canberra and graduating with first class honours from the ANU School of Art in 1995.
David Williams, who was then the school's director, said Harding's talent was evident right from his very first entrance interview.
Although he was drawn to woodworking early on, he would later work in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, marble and stone.
"Canberra and Australia has lost a very talented, accomplished artist and sculptor," he said.
Lecturer in sculpture at the ANU School of Art Nick Stranks said Harding had not only been an exceptional artist, but a generous collaborator and mentor.
"I think a lot of artists are quite happy to work on their own capacity and make their own artworks. What Matt was great at doing was bringing other people and working with other people to bring their works to fruition," he said.
"And not only with other artists but with industry and industry professionals, to educate them about the subtleties that were involved in making art, and those nuances that tradespeople aren't always aware of."
He also took time to help and mentor other artists, even as his own practice flourished.
"Artists who have contacted me in the last few days have said how much he'll be missed, in that anyone could ring him up at any time and ask his opinion or ask for advice, and Matt was more than willing to give that," Stranks said.
But he said Harding, like many artists, had struggled to balance his private practice with his public artworks, and amount of energy they required.
"His own practice took a benchseat, really, next to him while he was making his public artwork, and I think he was frustrated by that," he said.
"But also, with each of those projects, Matt put 150 per cent into them. Matt was completely spent at the end of each one of those projects. Every project ran right to the deadline because Matt was such a perfectionist."
A message on Harding's official website noted that he took his own life on February 22, leaving behind his partner and four young children. A memorial service is planned in Newcastle in the coming weeks.
The local community in Trentham have set up a GoFundMe page to support Harding's family, at gofundme.com/fund-for-freya.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
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