Vale Martin Sharp
Australian artist Martin Sharp, an icon of psychedelic and pop art, has died in Sydney aged 71.
Peter Hogan, GSA’s Finance Director, remembers Sydney Artist and GSA friend, Martin Sharp.
Martin Sharp passed away in Sydney on 1st December 2013 and has left behind an extensive art collection comprising works from over six decades.
Paul Hines and I separately collected Martin’s posters from the early 1980’s in an era without eBay, Google Images or Wikipedia. Whilst Martin’s work has always been collectable, thirty years ago there was no easy way to source his works. They would just appear at various Galleries or small book or gift shops around town and then quickly disappear. About three years ago Paul embarked on a plan to acquire and display Martin’s work in the GSA office. With the help of Art Brokers Matt Henry and Nadja Kabriel, the collection quickly grew to about 100 pieces and what we believe to be the largest privately owned collection of Martin’s work. Through this collection process Paul, John Hewson and I met Martin and became firm friends with him. We wanted nothing from Martin apart from a little bit of his time. We always enjoyed the meetings and Martin would make us feel welcome. We were invited into his home as well as St Vincent’s Hospital where he had frequent treatment. Paul continued buying artwork, having them framed and hung in the office. Many GSA employees (notably Carlo and Rocco) enjoyed becoming Martin Sharp art experts. Martin expressed an interest in seeing the works in the office and agreed to be the guest of honour at an official opening, however his deteriorating health prevented any serious planning. So that Martin could see the work, Paul organised a video recording, complete with commentary and Cream soundtrack, showcasing the three floors of GSA art for Martin. There were items in the collection that Martin had not seen for fifty years.
While Martin’s work was internationally renowned, he was predominantly based in Sydney and as a results his works would often have a local flavour.
Many posters include the Opera House, Luna Park, The Harbour Bridge, The Southern Cross, Musicians, Festivals and Theatres with the Nimrod Theatre series being probably the most well-‐known. Martin used vivid primary colours and his work has been loosely defined as pop-‐art. His artwork included famous musicians who were his friends. Martin’s poster of Jimi Hendrix (with the exploding guitar), Bob Dylan (Blowing in your Mind) and the Cream album covers all became classic images of the 1960’s. Eric Clapton became a lifelong friend of Martin’s and Eric would always visit Martin when he was in Sydney.
Martin was born and raised in Sydney, living in the family home in Bellevue Hill for most of his life, apart from a few years when he lived in London. His home, known as Wirian, adjoins Cranbrook Private School (Martin’s childhood school) and was used as Martin’s art studio. Each time we visited Martin at his home your eyes would invariably wonder to the eclectic collection of art that highlighted Martin’s full and varied life. There were books, cartoon figurines, posters, original artworks, family and religious mementos displayed everywhere. Original paintings of Martin’s were stacked in one of the rooms. Martin said he did not like to sell his artwork as once they were sold they were generally gone forever. So Martin continued work on the over many years, because if they remained unfinished then he did not have to consider what to do with them. Over the years I saw Martin’s works on loan to places like the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The Sydney Children’s Hospital and for a long exhibition at The Sydney Museum.
Martin Sharp will be sadly missed. However, at GSA we are reminded daily of his life’s work through this wonderful collection. He was a warm and gentle soul and we will miss him.
Written by Peter Hogan