Anna Welch highlights some Australian psychedelia currently on show in our Mirror of the World exhibition
Currently on display in Mirror of the World is a selection of works by Australian artist Martin Sharp, who passed away in December last year. The display features iconic 1960s magazines, posters and record covers designed and illustrated by Sharp.
Sharp (1942–2013) was a key figure in 20th-century counterculture. After training at Sydney’s National Art School in the early 1960s, he joined Richard Neville and Richard Walsh’s new publication Oz as art director in 1963. Sharp’s humourous visual style and provocative themes helped define Oz as the younger generation’s ‘magazine of dissent’, an ethos also reflected in his famous posters of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and others, and record covers for Cream.
Sharp, Neville and Walsh ensured Oz magazine was consistently controversial. The publication of an ‘offensive’ poem by Sharp, and later, a cover photograph that appeared to show men urinating on a wall fountain, sparked obscenity trials (1964 in Sydney and 1971 in London) at which the three were convicted and sentenced to jail. They were acquitted after public outcry. In 1966, all three left Australia to join the growing countercultural movement in ‘Swinging’ London. Oz was published in Sydney 1963–69, and (more famously) in London 1967–73. It reflects perfectly the zeitgeist of the 1960s, a time of profound social change and artistic innovation.
Returning to Australia in 1969, Sharp was instrumental in restoring the façade of Sydney’s Luna Park in the 1970s, and the iconic building became a recurring motif in his art. He is also well-known for referencing and popularising the ‘Eternity’ sign in his artwork. This single word was inscribed on Sydney’s streets in copperplate handwriting for many decades by reformed petty criminal and born-again Christian Arthur Stace (known as ‘Mr. Eternity’)
Martin Sharp is remembered as a champion of personal, political and artistic freedom.
These works will be on display until October 2015.
History of the Book
A rather wonderful postcard of Melbourne’s own Luna Park, from our Picture Collection