The Pop and psychedelic art of Martin Sharp

Martin Ritchie Sharp (21 January 1942 – 1 December 2013)was an Australian artist, underground cartoonist, songwriter and film-maker.
Sharp made contributions to Australian and international culture from the early 1960s, and was called Australia's foremost pop artist. His psychedelic posters of Bob Dylan, Donovan and others, rank as classics of the genre,and his covers, cartoons and illustrations were a central feature of Oz magazine, both in Australia and in London. Martin co-wrote one of Cream's best known songs, "Tales of Brave Ulysses", created the cover art for Cream's Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire albums, and in the 1970s became a champion of singer Tiny Tim, and of Sydney's embattled Luna Park.Wikipedia

"The swirling, psychedelic posters of Martin Sharp became cultural icons for an era that frequently threatened, in the eyes of older generations at least, to veer out of control. The most famous of those works – “Blowin in the Mind”, a portrait of Bob Dylan, and “Jimi Hendrix Explosion”, based on a famous Linda McCartney photograph of the guitarist – perfectly encapsulated the drug-fuelled exuberance of their time.
Yet the images of the Australian artist, who has died aged 71, were finely crafted works in their own right. Like the greatest musicians of the 1960s, he allied flights of the imagination with expert technique. His most celebrated works, the covers he designed for two albums by Cream, Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire, complemented astutely the free-form, experimental sounds of rock’s first supergroup. His association with the band was itself indicative of the easy-going fluidity of the 1960s: he had bumped into Eric Clapton, Cream’s guitarist, at The Speakeasy, one of London’s leading nightclubs of the time. During their conversation, Sharp told Clapton of a poem he had recently written, while the guitarist recounted his struggle to find lyrics for some music he had composed.

 Sharp’s excursions into Pop Art suffered by comparison with the cool laconicism of the genre’s more celebrated practitioners. He always seemed a participant in, rather than an observer of, the social changes that were taking place all around him. In 1967 he joined forces with compatriot Richard Neville to found the London edition of Oz magazine along with Felix Dennis; it became a scourge of the British establishment.
Sharp’s interests, and career, took an abrupt turn in the mid-1970s when he was commissioned to oversee the restoration of Sydney’s Luna Park. It was a project into which he threw himself with enthusiasm but which soured when a fire in one of the theme park’s rides claimed seven lives in 1979. The park was overhauled, amid controversy over the site’s development.

The remainder of Sharp’s life, spent mostly in his birthplace, showed him to be as out of touch with the times as he had been in tune with them as a younger man. That was not just because he remained in thrall to his early heroes (he went to see Dylan three times during the singer’s recent tour and gave him the last original print of the “Blowin in the Mind” poster). It was more that his obsessive nature focused increasingly on unlikely and marginal figures.
Among those was Tiny Tim, whom he had first seen at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968 and supported financially, and the Sydneysider Arthur Stace, otherwise known as Mr Eternity, a reformed alcoholic and convert to Christianity who became famous for his chalk scrawling of the word “eternity” in various Sydney locations. Sharp appropriated the logo, which went on to appear in lights on Sydney Harbour Bridge during the millennium celebrations.
Yet his interest in such left-field figures also marked him out from many of his Pop Art contemporaries, who became embroiled in, and enjoyed the fruits of, the increasing commercialisation of the art scene. Sharp’s support for those he saw as the true heirs of 1960s radicalism made him an authentic and impassioned advocate of that culturally remarkable time." ( By Peter Aspden ) 

Post a Comment