|© Martin Ritchie Sharp/Licensed by Viscopy 2011|
Fragments of a (f)unfair, lest we forget
screen-print on paper
112 x 77 cm image
Screen-printed colour poster of Sydney’s Luna Park face. The letter ‘f’ from the word ‘funfair’ has fallen off, changing the word to ‘unfair’. The subject matter and flat, solid colours are typical of pop art. Inscribed in pencil beneath image: ‘41/100 Lest We Forget Martin Sharp 23-12-91’.
Luna Park opened to the public in 1935 as an amusement park at Milsons Point, Sydney. In 1973 artists Martin Sharp, Richard Liney and Tim Lewis were commissioned to redecorate the entrance towers and face of Luna Park. In 1979 a fire in the ghost train at Luna Park killed seven people and the investigating Coroner found that there had been a serious breach in the duty of care. Sharp was convinced that the fire was an arson attack aimed at destroying the park and allowing developers to access the prime harbourside location. In response, Sharp and Peter Kingston formed Friends of Luna Park to try to secure the park’s future.
The Historic Houses Trust (HHT) exhibition Luna Park: fragments of a funfair was produced in collaboration with Martin Sharp and the Luna Park Reserve Trust. Commissioned by the HHT to design a publicity poster, Sharp’s concerns for the park’s future are captured by the poster’s powerful imagery and text. The words ‘lest we forget’ and the slipped ‘f’ from the word ‘funfair’ are strong reminders of how a place ‘just for fun’ became a place of tragedy. Sharp wrote in the exhibition catalogue:
‘It was their deaths that won that beautiful site back for the people of Sydney to enjoy and remember ... In some way the adults could show that though they failed in 1979, they really do care for kids more than dollars and that something can grow from that awful night. “Lest We Forget”. The Luna Park site is not “Just For Fun”, its very serious. This show is for them.’
In 1992 Martin Sharp was commissioned to design a poster publicising the HHT exhibition Luna Park: fragments of a funfair. The HHT purchased the work in 2004.
Martin Sharp OA was born in Sydney in 1942 and studied at the National Art School, East Sydney. Sharp, Richard Neville and Richard Walsh established the controversial magazine Oz in 1964. After overturning convictions for printing an obscene publication in 1966, Sharp left Sydney for London’s pop art scene where he and Neville established London Oz. As well as being Oz art director and cartoonist, Sharp designed album covers and posters for Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan and wrote lyrics for band Cream. In 1969 Sharp returned to Australia and was instrumental in setting up the Yellow House, a multimedia art space. He also became involved with the Nimrod Theatre at this time. In 1973 Sharp, Richard Liney and Tim Lewis began redecorating the entrance towers and face at Luna Park. Recurring themes in Sharp’s work include entertainer Tiny Tim and Arthur Stace’s copperplate writing of the word ‘Eternity’.
Australian Heritage Database, ‘Luna Park: Statement of Significance’ [online], 2006. Available from: http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=105827 [4 January 2006]
Flanagan, Anne, Marshall, Sam & Sharp, Martin, Luna Park: fragments of a funfair [catalogue], Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, Glebe, 1991
Marshall, Sam, Luna Park: just for fun, Luna Park Sydney, Milsons Point, 2005