Mike Kitching

Mike Kitching


Artists Biography

Michael Digby Kitching

Born 1940 - Hull, Yorkshire, England, UK.

Arriving in Australia, 1952 at 12 years of age.

With no formal training, Mike won the Blake Prize in 1964 when he was just 24 years old. He was the youngest artist to win the award and held this title for over 50 years.

Winning numerous art prizes, scholarships and awards for his sculptural work, Mike soon established his reputation as a leading Australian sculptor.

He exhibited his work in Australia and abroad throughout the 1960's. Traveling to Europe for inspiration with his wife, Antonia Hoddle, who is also an artist.


Mike dressed in his mother’s knitting, Elizabeth Kitching, otherwise known as Betty.

"She was very good at this' (at knitting), I remember the little wooden horse I'm holding"

Mike arrived in Australia in 1952, he was 12 years old. Mike recalls "What I remember most from then is the dockyard where the ships pulled in. That wasn’t unfamiliar to me because where I was born as a place called Hull, which is a harbour about the same size as Sydney, with a very similar layout. Hull has a big bay at one end and a bay at the other end. When you leave England you have to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s so you are there on the dockside for about a week – then someone says ‘the boat’s on its way, you can cross the Channel now’…. ‘mad dogs and slow boats, that’s what it reminds me of’."

The eldest son, to James Digby Percival and Elizabeth Kitching. "We lived in Cheshire as most of Hull was bombed during the war until it disintegrated. Our own home was blown up six times." - Mike Kitching,Pittwater Online News. Mike continues, "My father had secured a job to build an oil refinery prior to us leaving England. This was to be built in Kurnell, in Botany Bay. He had experience in this during WWII."

On July 1st 1940 there was a raid at Hull. Mike recall"Although we didn't lose our oil refinery, it was just damaged. This happened to be the day my father got called up (to serve) – they’d sent him a document in the post and he had to tick it and appear at such and such a place at this time etc. I remember it said something about ‘don’t worry about bringing socks because we’ll provide socks’ which I thought was hilarious." 

Mike continues, "There was a blank spot at the bottom of this document, ‘Civilian Occupation’ – he put down ‘Builder’ as that had been the family occupation – half of them are farmers and the few that weren’t were Builders and had been for a long time, generations, since 1722 in fact. I thought I too would eventually inherit this occupation but this didn’t happen." Read the full article here>>

Credit: Interview by Pittwater Online News

Interview 2014

A fascinating journey through Australian sculpture over the past several decades through the words of many of its key figures.

"As part of the larger archive at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Balnaves Foundation Australian Sculpture Archive Project focuses on significant Australian sculptors and sculptural practice. Initiated and led by Deborah Edwards, then the Gallery’s senior curator of Australian art, the project was developed with a grant from the Balnaves Foundation in 2010, which supported the recording and transcription of interviews with artists and other figures in Australian art."
- Art Gallery Of NSW.

Interview with Mike Kitching - Download PDF
"Although he won the 1964 Blake Prize for a painting, Mike Kitching (born 1940) is best known for his sculptures in stainless steel, aluminium and plexiglass, which often incorporate light. A self-trained artist, he has also taught for many years, including at the City Art Institute in Sydney.

Interview date 11 September and 23 October 2014." - Interviewer Deborah Edwards, senior curator of Australian art, Art Gallery of NSW

Art Gallery Rd, The Domain 2000
Sydney, Australia
Info line 1800 679 278

Mike attributes his knowledge of building to his father who was a well respected builder.

"Oh yes, of course. All that understanding of what is needed there I owe to my father. I remember saying to him ‘dad, I want a bicycle’ – he said ‘come with me – see all those bricks there, I want them moved down there and placed there, there and there for those three brickies.’ He made me earn it, and not only that, this made me fit. I never resented having to earn anything and as a result I also picked up a whole lot of knowledge about structures. In fact my first proper job was with the NSW Education Department where I’d signed up to teach Manual Art: woodwork, metalwork and lastly and most important, and still most important to me and why my work has that flavour, was Engineering Drawing, which is sometimes called Technical Drawing. This is vital if you have to build a house and progress in this area – first you have to draw a plan then do others for an elevation of a wall etc etc. So I was sort of doomed to build things from the outset!"

Mike Kitching and Antonia Hoddle, on their wedding day 22nd September 1967, at St Peter's Church, Watsons Bay, Sydney.
Mike and Antonia met in Sydney and were introduced by a mutual friend. Antonia was working for John Kaldor at that time, Mike had a connection to Antonia’s family during the Second World War through a relative of Antonia’s who had looked after a relative of Kaldor’s. Mike was introduced to Antonia, "I met Antonia through Kaldor and I can tell you, I really fell over her", Mike recalls.
Mike and Antonia, Venice 2016.
"When I was about four years old, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, gave me a set of paints. I’d always been painting but really began painting in earnest when my grandmother gave me this box of paints – this was a box of three where you just flipped the little lids on each over."

1960's Sculpture "Kiss Me" by Mike Kitching.

"I’m not so sure it’s my favourite overall though. I will show you one favourite, I have it here. This is my favourite as this is the shape of Antonia’s lips. When she was younger they were really full. And hers fitted together with mine. It’s called ‘Kiss Me’. (Mr. Kitching is almost in tears – clearly adores his wife)".

Credit: Mike Kitching, Pittwater Online News, 2016.
Mike reflects on his life's work, "In a sense I came onto the planet at a time when there was room for Art. I was lucky that I had numerous Commissions that then allowed me to pursue making non-commissioned works, like some of these here that I built for myself. That was enough to keep me going."

Mike Kitching is represented by Berkeley Editions Fine Art - view artists catalogue now 

Mike Kitching's earlier work 1960's.

Seqvanae Studio's 2016.

Working with an array of materials, Mike's favorite medium is stainless steel "Because when you polish it, it stays that way. You never have to touch it again. You have to have the right equipment to work with it because it’s not the sort of material you can carve up and put little nicks in yourself. You do have to pay for everything but what you get is something that is just about indestructible. That piece on the table gives you an idea of that kind of work, and is actually called "Celestial Time Piece"

Title: "The Surveyor General's Antipodean Egg " - latest work 5-8 April, 2016.
Installation at Ballarat, Victoria.
The project of his life – The Australia Bells and called The Hundred Bells
This began as a project making an important Sculpture for the Bicentennial, to celebrate this.
This will be my last hurrah if we can get this to be installed.

Artists Statement

The Hundred Bells is a monument.

A ceremonial place where the history of Australia is recorded and celebrated. It is the setting for a diversity of historic, state, civic, religious, ethnic and military ceremonies.
Each of the Hundred Bells is numbered, representing that year n any century. Each century is represented by the addition of a single new bell.
Our past and ongoing history is incised on plaques set at the base of the appropriate year bell.

When the bells are not in ceremonial use the ornamental bell ropes are installed as a tapestry in Parliament House, becoming part of the artefacts of Parliament. At other times the bells are activated by the wind. A small external Aeolian striker creates a gentle background aura – the equivalent in sound of sunlight rippling on water. Bells have a long association with celebration, time, declaration and commemoration. Bells are common to all cultures. Universal in their language regardless of age or origin. With simple instruction The Hundred Bells are accessible to all who have a reason to celebrate our heritage.

The Hundred Bells is a symbol of national unity. A gathering of bells, a calling together of the Australian people. The concept embraces time, it celebrates our continuity as a nation. It is a place where Australians can see who they are and visitors can see who they are. -
Michael Kitching.