03.10.17 / Designer Profile / Martin Sharp

Martin Sharp

Spaceman, Martin Sharp

Picture this: a young Martin Sharp is visiting friends in London when he is introduced to a musician in the epoch-making nightclub, The Speakeasy. The musician, who Martin doesn’t recognise, mentions he is looking for some lyrics for a song he has just written. On top of the mountain of other artistic endeavours he engages in, Martin also writes poetry so offers to provide some lyrics to the currently nameless song. He scribbles the lyrics and his address on a napkin and hands it to the musician — who just happens to be Eric Clapton.

Disraeli Gears album cover

Martin Sharp is an illustrator, cartoonist, film-maker, and arguably Australia’s most influential pop art protagonist.

Martin played a major role in the genesis and publication of OZ — first published on April Fool’s Day, 1963 — a magazine which unleashed brutally honest and satirical coverage of local and national issues.

Honest and satirical enough to offend the government. Honest and satirical enough for the publishers (of whom Martin was one) to receive a jail sentence for “printing an obscene publication”, twice in the three years they spent at the helm of the magazine. Public outcry was enough to have their sentences overturned, thankfully, and with a bitter taste in his mouth Martin took the hint and escaped to the more liberal-minded England.

During this period in London, Martin worked out of a communal artists’ space in King’s Cross known as The Pheasantry, creating psychedelic, pulsating posters for Bob Dylan, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, London underground legends Mighty Baby, the musical bowerbird Tiny Tim, and artist Max Ernst.

His long-term Australian residence, Wirian, the Bellevue Hill mansion he inherited from his maternal grandparents, is an artists’ residence where creatives can live and work together, supported, inspired, and unhindered.

Jimi Hendrix explosion

OZ magazine cover

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Heath Campbell

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