To mark Perth’s founding in 1829, a tree was felled at the site where the new Mirvac office tower stands in the centre of the Cathedral Square precinct. It’s fitting, then, that in its place, at the forecourt of the building, artist Matthew Harding’s sculpture Iconic rises from the ground – a stunning stainless steel woven piece reminiscent of the tree that took the place before. Matthew tells us the tree acts as a source of knowledge for the city’s shared cultural and historical identity – who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. It’s a symbolic reminder of the revitalisation of the whole Cathedral Square site – giving West Australians an opportunity to remember and respect our past as we look to the future.
What is the significance of this work?
Reaching nine metres in height, the primary form of the Iconic work is symbolic of the Casuarina tree that was felled on this site on 12 August 1829, to mark the official founding of Perth. This took place on the site where the Treasury Building now stands. This location has become the Google reference for the geographic centre of Perth represented by the radial geometry of the stainless steel banding inset into the pavement. The end grain pattern carved into the pavement imagines the girth of this tree had still been growing for the past 186 years.
How does it fit within the rest of your body of work?
Throughout my past sculptural work there has been a strong connection to themes of regrowth, cyclic patterns, regeneration and revitalisation taking the form of cultural markers embedded with the collective knowledge, identity and history of place. The tree is a potent symbol that has informed the nature and premise of many of my sculptural works both for public and exhibition, which stems from my background and knowledge of timber.
Have you explored any new fabrication methods for this work?
I have been exploring woven stainless steel geometry to create semi-transparent forms and structures for some years now. This work explores new construction methods of mimicking the cellular-like growth structure of wood, incorporating a corrugated torsion box section to achieve both the strength and flexibility of a tree.
What do you want people to know about this work and the OTB site?
As the founding site for Perth I hope the living symbolism of the tree can reflect on of the continuous cultural lineage and connection of the Noongar people to the land over the past 45,000 years.
Why do you create public art?
Throughout my career I have been driven primarily towards the creation of public art works. I feel this is a more democratic way of bringing art into people’s lives. The public in this sense owns the artwork, offering their own interpretation and experiencing it in the peripheries of their daily lives.
Iconic stands in the very centre of Perth, outside the new Mirvac office building. Experience in whatever way you want.