Australia’s most famous pop artist, Martin Sharp, has died after a long battle with emphysema, aged 71.
There were many strings to Sharp’s artistic bow – he founded the legendary performance space, The Yellow House – he was art director for the controversial and iconic magazine, Oz – he designed psychedelic album covers for Cream and classic posters of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan – he was a cartoonist and songwriter – he was a champion of Tiny Tim, the Nimrod Theatre and North Sydney’s Luna Park. He was a true ‘artist’ in both his craft and his contribution to society.
Fellow artist, Garry Shead, went to the National Art School in East Sydney together and were friends and associates for over 50 years. Archibald prizewinner Shead entered three portraits of Sharp and all made the final. One ended up in the National Portrait Gallery, one in a pub in Double Bay and this one in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The one featured here was entered in the 2012 Archibald Prize and Shead’s comments say a lot about the portrait and the artist.
“Martin now has emphysema. When I began visiting him I suddenly had the compulsion to paint him. Once I began the portrait it was like he was directing me. Martin has a museum of toys. His image of Mo (Roy Rene) became the face of Nimrod and Ginger Meggs. When I put Ginger in I suddenly realised it symbolised the boys killed in the fire at Luna Park (in 1979). Martin had the job of revamping the whole place and he enlisted the help of his artist friends, myself included. I learned about Martin’s great love for Vincent van Gogh, which then influenced the way I painted it. I also saw that for Martin, Luna Park had become a metaphor for the world.”