Martin Sharp, who died in late 2013, was Australia’s premier pop artist. This interview was conducted a few months earlier, during his long terminal illness. In the interview Martin talks about his childhood, education, artistic influences and many other aspects of his productive life. In the excerpt below he recalls with amusement some early failures. The voices of interviewer Deborah Beck, and friend and fellow artist Garry Shead, can also be heard.
I started to exhibit. My first exhibition, well actually, my first exhibition was at that little theatre [Ensemble] in North Sydney. And I did abstracts, really inspired by Jeff Doring’s work, because he was doing a lot of wonderful abstracts at the time. One [of Martin’s] turned up recently, how amazing, but I threw most of them out because I thought they were failures. And I remember at the opening there was a Catholic priest and a couple of his mates, and they were laughing at the pictures, and I fainted. I never faint; and I fainted. I might have been so nervous or something, I don’t know; it was my very first exhibition. As I say, I [had] lost my style, but I found it again through cartooning, you see. I knew nothing about abstract art. I didn’t have a clue about it; didn’t understand it, and it still doesn’t interest me that much. So I never graduated from art school, I never graduated; I barely got out of school, you know. But in recent years they gave me an honorary doctorate from Sydney University, which is wonderful.