Talented, charismatic, unconventional, Martin Sharp was one of the most internationally influential culture makers of the late 20th century. His iconic images of Dylan, Hendrix, Luna Park and the Sydney Opera House defined the spirit of a generation and of a city.
When underground magazine Oz appeared in London in January 1967, Sharp’s psychedelic covers and artwork for it shaped the imagery of the Summer of Love that followed. Fifty years on, this richly told and beautifully written biography of Sharp captures the loneliness of his privileged childhood, the heady days of Oz magazine (which he founded with Richard Neville and Richard Walsh), the swirling world of creativity and energy that was Swinging London in the 1960s – when he shared a flat with Eric Clapton – the Yellow House artists’ colony, the Wirian years and the vitality that embodied the times.
Joyce Morgan interviewed artist Martin Sharp extensively during the last decade of his life to reveal a unique and surprising man of many obsessions – from Luna Park and Tiny Tim to Picnic at Hanging Rock and Arthur Stace’s ‘Eternity’ motif. It also reveals Sharp’s part in architect Jorn Utzon’s secret departure from Australia in 1966 and eventual re-engagement with the Sydney Opera House.
There was no one like Martin Sharp. When he died, he was described as a stranger in a strange land who left behind a trail of stardust.
“Martin wore tight pants that were striped red, white and blue, like a Union Jack, and an embroidered Afghan vest. In front of his face he carried, like a lollipop, a smile on a stick. As he went, he bowed to passers-by. Even on King’s Road, he stood out.”
Joyce Morgan is a former Arts Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and a published author. She has been a journalist for more than 30 years, including in London, Hong Kong and Sydney. Joyce grew up in Liverpool, England, from where she emigrated to Australia at the height of Beatlemania in 1968. She graduated from Newcastle University, NSW, where she majored in English and Philosophy, and became editor of its student magazine.
Since then, her journalism has taken her around the world. She has written on arts and culture since 1994 and interviewed many leading cultural figures including Cate Blanchett, Annie Leibovitz, Tom Stoppard, Clive James, Patti Smith and the Dalai Lama.
As a senior arts writer with The Sydney Morning Herald for 15 years Joyce received a Getty arts journalism fellowship for her work. Her writing has appeared in The Saturday Paper, The Australian and The Guardian. She has also been a producer for ABC radio and has mentored young journalists in East Timor.
Joyce Morgan is the author of Journeys on the Silk Road (Picador Australia 2011, and Lyons Press, USA 2012). When she is not at her computer Joyce might be found in the Himalayas. She has travelled extensively in Asia, including to Bhutan, Tibet, India, Nepal, China and Indonesia.
Image: Martin Sharp: His Life and Times