40 Below Trooper

Art Life , Stuff Jun 13, 2005 No Comments

When we heard that Eddie Maguire had been awarded an AM in the Queens Birthday Weekend honours list we decided to call our nearest Flight Centre and arrange to leave the country as soon as possible. Eddie is responsible for good works in the form of raising $5 million to support families affected by cancer. Fair enough we thought, until we also saw that Eddie was to be honoured for his services “to broadcasting”. If the Australian nation wants to honour Eddie Maguire for the Melbourne Footy Show and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, we may as well honour him for his services to knowledge and humility.

We hung up the phone when we saw that one of the country’s greatest artists had been honoured. Martin Sharp was made a
Member of the Order of Australia for his services to “the pop art movement and support for young artists.” The Sydney Morning Herald ran a short profile:

“I feel quite young myself, apart from physically,” said Sharp, who last year underwent a triple heart bypass and had a stroke. The artist is embracing new experiences delivered by his health shock with youthful zeal. “Air’s a different experience – I used to smoke 75 cigarettes a day; it’s how one copes,” Sharp said.

Yet even as he savours an atmosphere unfiltered by tobacco, Sharp said the salvation delivered by St Vincent’s Hospital surgeons has also sentenced him once again to the responsibilities of his calling.

“I thought I was going to leave a big mess behind – that at last I didn’t have to do all that work, but now thanks to them, I have a lot more work to do,” said Sharp, whose resume includes the iconic covers of Oz, the “obscenity trial” magazine published in 1960s London by expatriate Australians.

Fans of Sharp’s hard edged comic book style and his gear ‘n’ groovy paintings would also note with glee that Sharp was responsible for the cover of Cream’s Disraeli Gears, perhaps the 60s album cover, certainly equalling if not actually bettering Peter Blake‘s Sgt Pepper’s cover for The Beatles. Sharp also took writing credit next to Eric Clapton for the song Tales of Brave Ulysses, the result of a meeting between the artist and guitarist in London in 1966. A good account of the artist’s adventures and film making exploits with Garry Shead, and later with Tiny Tim, can be found at Miles Ago

It’s nice to see Sharp getting the award, especially after surviving a triple bypass operation and a 70+ a day cigarette habit, and vowing to get back to his work after lingering on the edges of the world. We’d love to see a full scale exhibition of his work at some suitably ritzy gallery, perhaps as part of our fantasy exhibition we have been imagining for a while called From Bodgie To Grunge: Bad Boys Whatcha Gonna Do? that would feature the work of Sharp, Mike Brown and Adam Cullen (among others). The interview with Sharp in the SMH concludes withg a couple of observations that prove that Sharp has seen beyond:

“You can’t live in the world of drugs; you might get some ideas there, but living in this dimension’s hard enough,” Sharp said.

“Looking at the world I do think it’s been very well art-directed – there’s a design there and it seems to make sense to fit into the design as best as possible.”

Andrew Frost

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