The recent loss of australian graphic designer Martin Sharp (1942-2013), invites us to continue our series of articles on the great names in graphic design. Here is a brief portrait of a graphic designer under LSD...
When some wanted to make revolution with their voices or their guitars, he armed himself with his pencils and brushes. It was the early'60s, and Kennedy wasn't an airport yet. It was at the heart of these "Beatniks" years that this young Australian graphic designer-illustrator created the sulphurous magazine "Oz" with Richard Neville and Richard Walsh. The articles dealt without taboos with topics such as drugs, homosexuality, police brutality, abortion, racism or the Vietnam War. The three collaborators will be invited to take a tour through the prison hut, following the publication of a cover deemed obscene.
Following this Australian period, Sharp went into exile in London with one of his comrades. He was then 25 years old.
Together, they continued their adventure with the magazine London Oz. The editorial line remained essentially the same and censorship caught up with them with a new trial in 1971 for "attempted corruption of public morals". Once again, prison sentences were handed down before being overturned on appeal. However, the magazine did not recover completely, and the November 1973 issue was the last.
Alongside the model of the magazine, Martin Sharp produced numerous record covers for rock artists of that period. For example, he designed the cover of the famous Disraeli Gears album by Cream, Eric Clapton's band, of which he was even the roommate in Chelsea... He also creates numerous collages and paintings, such as those featuring Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix or Mick Jagger in hallucinated worlds, mixing fluorescent colours, acid trip and vicious references to Fine Arts.
His cover for Cream's Wheels of Fire album was voted Best Cover of the Year by the New York Art Directors Prize in 1969.
After a brief stay in Australia, Sharp returned to London in 1972. He continues his research of collages by imagining a miniature work, about 8x8cm composed of 36 collages in colors cut out in the pages of the art books, gathering the works of Magritte and Van Gogh, Matisse and Magritte, Botticelli and Picasso in poetic images.
"I never hesitated to cut the works if I had a good idea. For me, these works were worth the price of a book. That's how I could mix a Gauguin character into a Van Gogh landscape and tell a new story..."
After returning to Australia in 1973, the artist continues to dedicate his art to the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. He then created the Yellow House in Sidney, an alternative home where visual artists, apprentice filmmakers or performers are welcome. Martin Sharp died on Sunday, December 1, 2013 in his home in Sydney at the age of 71.
May the flower power bloom on his grave.
Sources: The images and texts in this article are presented for educational purposes.
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