Late 20th century Sydney artist. Sharp's 1964 cartoon "The Word Spread Round the Arms", published in "Oz" was seen to breach the Obscene and Indecent Publications Act and resulted in charges being laid against Sharp and his editors. Later, after reprising his antipodean success with the London edition of "Oz", he returned to Australia where he founded the Yellow House at 59 Macleay Street Potts Point.
painter, cartoonist and art director, was born in Bellevue Hill [Rose Bay, acc. NGA], Sydney, on 21 January 1942. He attended Cranbrook 1952-59. While studying art at East Sydney Technical College in 1960 he submitted cartoons to the Bulletin . In 1961 he enrolled in Architecture at university (SU and/or UNSW). He was in trouble for obscenity for the cartoon The Gas Lash in the UNSWstudent publication Tharunka’s 1964 Orientation Week issue. Fifty years … says that he contributed both to Tharunka and Sydney University’s Honi Soit . In his third year of Architecture he returned to ESTC to study art, completing three of the five years of the course. In 1962 he won the Mirror Art Award. In 1963-64 he attended the Mary White Art School at the Rocks while simultaneously (1963-65 [1962-64 [ sic ] acc. McCulloch]) working as art director of Oz and being its major contributor of drawings and cartoons. The prosecution of Oz in 1964 for breach of the Obscene and Indecent Publications Act concentrated on a Sharp cartoon, The Word Spread Round the Arms (about an Ocker surfie), published in issue 6 (February; almost the same time as the similarly controversial The Gas Lash in Tharunka ), which consisted (almost) only of words (ill. Lindesay WWW , 159). Within weeks of Tharunka’s editors being convicted over The Gas Lash , Neville and Walsh were sentenced to six months gaol with hard labour and Sharp to four months, though all three were later released on bail pending an appeal, which was upheld. According to Coleman (p.12):
“The case caused such a sensation that it figured in the 1965 State election when the Opposition Leader Bob Askin, following Oz , made it his policy to abolish censorship. He won the election and that was the end of trial-by-magistrates in obscenity cases in New South Wales. It all added to the glory of Oz , Martin Sharp and cartoonists.”
A subsequent $300,000 libel suit, the departure of Sharp and Neville for England via Asia in 1966 to establish London Oz , the cancellation of advertising and the continued refusal of Gordon & Gotch to distribute Oz finally resulted in its demise (Lindesay, WWW , 156-160).
In December 1965 Sharp held a solo exhibition, Art for Mart’s Sake , at Clune Galleries, Potts Point. Martin Sharp Cartoons was published in 1966. Some of his cartoons also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald , e.g. one about Prince Charles coming to school in Australia in 1965: “I sincerely hope he’s funnier than his father” . Others are [Aborigine in garbage tin with man bending over it] “You wouldn’t give us any trouble like those boongs in Los Angeles, would you Jacky” n.d. (ill. Coleman & Tanner, 74, 184). His cartoon Loading Up , published in the Australian 1965, about the Menzies government arms’ spending increase, is ill. King, 174.
Sharp lived and worked in London in 1967-69. He came back to Australia in 1970 then returned to collect his portable artworks for The Incredible Shrinking Exhibition group show, which opened at the Yellow House on 1 April 1971. He remained in London 1971-72 painting murals and publishing his Art Book etc..
Hamilton Art Gallery owns Sharp’s etching of Luna Park, Just For Fun? (clown on stage) 1981, ill. Hansen, cat.260 (the Hogarth Gallery’s copy was used in the 1999 S.H. Ervin Gallery show). Posters designed for the Nimrod Theatre are at ML POSTERS 810/1-7. On 4 March 2001 Dahlia Stanley was auctioning his silkscreen prints, Tiny Tim Eternal Troubadour Opera House 1982 , Kaspar (Nimrod November 7), The Venetian Twins and Art Sale for Land Rights n.d.