03 December 2013

up in a puff of smoke

Martin Sharp has died of emphysema on 1st December 2013 and this beautiful portrait of him is by his lifelong friend, Garry Shead another Australian painter whose work I also just love. This is what Mr Shead said of his portrait -
'Martin Sharp is one of Australia’s foremost pop artists as well as a cartoonist and songwriter. His psychedelic posters of Dylan and Hendrix are classics of the genre, while his posters for the Nimrod Theatre Company are also iconic in theatre circles. He also designed record covers for the rock band Cream. From 1963 to 1965 he was art director of Oz magazine. In 1970, inspired by Van Gogh’s house in Arles, he founded The Yellow House near Kings Cross which he converted into a 24-hour performance art space. During the 1970s, he was a champion of Tiny Tim and of Sydney’s Luna Park.
Martin now has emphysema. When I began visiting him I suddenly had the compulsion to paint him,’ says Shead. ‘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.’
Shead says about the portrait, ‘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.’
Garry Shead has known Sharp for 50 years, first meeting at the National Art School in East Sydney. Sharp appeared in three of Shead’s experimental films, the DVD of which was released in 2011. They also published the Arty Wild Oat newspaper, which was the inspiration for Oz magazine.'
(I decided the SMH would/should have to have the most accurate Obit for him,
although one of the later paras needed a proofreader to sort the jumbled rewrite.)

In 1976 when I lived near the Paddington gallery of Clive Evatt who represented Martin, I bought a couple of signed and numbered Sharps - the gold metallic The Getting Together Of The Heads (No.22) , and The Haymarket (No.20). The first has a collage of every hippie stoney thing from early 70's counterculture London, and the second has every cartoon character known to every Baby-Boom Australian, as well as the ironic Eternity of Arthur Stace which Martin included in more than several works.
He was responsible for one of my life's magic moments when he introduced me to his friend Wandjuk (Wandjuk Djuakan Marika, OBE) who handed me his didjeridoo and explained to me how to speak into it and hear that mystical rumble. Of course I didn't achieve much, but the experience was thrilling. Thanks Martin for that, your life, and the art.