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Blue Case

Matt Harding

Sacred Heart

Matt Harding Sacred Heart 1999

Sacred Heart 1999 purpleheart wood National Gallery of Australia enlarge

Artist’s statement
Sacred Heart was made to cheer up my mother by appealing to her good sense of humour after she had open-heart bypass surgery. The box, which opens from the back, has left and right ventricle compartments for her blood pressure and cholesterol tablets. The title of the pillbox contemplates the sacredness of all aspects of life and seeks to remind us that the physical self is an integral part of our human spirit.’

How was Sacred Heart made?
The heart was carved from a solid board of purpleheart, which is a hardwood originating from South America. This wood was chosen for it colour and the play on its name with the theme of the work. The profile was cut on a bandsaw and roughly shaped with chisels before the back was cut again on the bandsaw to relieve the section of wood for the pivoting back. The piece was fully shaped on the outside with chisels and sandpaper before the centre was carved and shaped for the left and right ventricles. A small hinge was made with a stainless steel pin and a brass sleeve, which was carefully drilled, glue and fitted to the box. The box has a patina finish from the oils in the hand. No other finishes were applied.

  • Describe how Sacred Heart feels in your hand.
  • Design a container for something that you use every day. Make the outside relate to what’s kept inside.
  • Find out how a human heart works. Does the real thing look like the heart shape with which we are familiar?