Sydney’s first true pop exhibition was held at Clune Galleries in 1966. Oz supa art market was Australia’s answer to The American supermarket, held at New York’s Bianchini Gallery in 1964, which featured work by pop masters Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselman. Like its American prototype, Oz supa art market displayed and sold works in an installation devised to resemble the garish atmosphere of a supermarket.
Two of the exhibition’s artists, Peter Kingston and Martin Sharp, had studied in the 1950s under the esteemed painter and art master at Cranbrook School, Justin O’Brien. Encouraged by their teacher, Sharp and Kingston followed their creative instincts – Sharp studying art at East Sydney Technical College while Kingston tackled architecture at the University of NSW. Their paths crossed again in 1961 when their cartoons were published by the student newspaper Tharunka. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that the artists’ careers collided spectacularly with the appearance of Oz magazine. Oz epitomised the anti-establishment era of the 1960s, with its irreverent, satirical and usually controversial take on topics as diverse as police brutality, censorship, homosexuality and abortion.
Sharp and 'Kingo’ were two of the magazine’s most sardonic humorists, and their idiosyncratic approach to popular culture, coupled with their inventive genius, reached the peak of expression during the early 1970s at the Yellow House, a collective enterprise established in Kings Cross by Sharp in 1971. Sharp had returned from 'Swinging London’ with a reputation as a brilliant graphic artist, designing posters and album covers for musicians and bands including Bob Dylan and Cream. Kingston was creating experimental films, completing Brett and Butter with Brett Whiteley in 1970.
In 1973, a singular passion for Luna Park brought them together again. Commissioned by the management of Luna Park to restore the funfair and recreate its whimsical spirit, Sharp called upon his old friend to assist. This collective spirit has continued until the present day, and is exemplified in the collaborative tour de force of this display. Remnants from the 20th century – a large pharmacist’s cabinet filled with Luna Park memorabilia, witty new constructions, and other objects from the artists’ collections – attests to the abiding friendship and unique vision the artists have shared for over four decades.
This display brings together a selection of prints, drawings, paintings and sculptures, which span 40 years of imaginative brilliance by two of Sydney’s most exuberant artists.
Assistant curator, Australian art
Art Gallery of NSW