Martin Sharp funeral in Sydney
Australian Artist Martin Sharp's Funeral at Christ Church Saint Laurence in Sydney. Photo: Brendan Esposito
When Martin Sharp created Eternity Haymarket! in 1978, he may not have realised how significant the Arthur Stace-inspired work would become - first as a screen print and political message in its own right, then re-imagined as part of Sydney's Millennium and Olympics.
On Tuesday morning it again resurfaced, this time as the magnetic Sydney artist was bid farewell, forever, in a church that is a stone's throw from Haymarket.
NSW Governor Marie Bashir labelled the emphysema that eventually took Sharp's life on December 1 as ''unfair''
About 800 friends and family gathered at Railway Square's Christ Church St Laurence for the Yellow House founder's funeral, a colourful crowd of painters, musicians, filmmakers and photographers spilling into a side room and onto the street. As the church in which Sharp worshipped, it was, said Reverend Dr Daniel Dries, ''always destined to be too small for such an occasion''.
''Martin belonged to many families … it would be remiss to think we own him,'' said cousin Andrew Sharp, listing the many, many groups to have formed Sharp's extended family.
That mix included chef Kylie Kwong, Cold Chisel's Jimmy Barnes, photographer Jon Lewis, Wendy Whiteley, widow of Brett Whiteley, artist George Gittoes, Oz magazine co-founder Richard Neville and his daughter Lucy and Cranbrook School headmaster Nicholas Sampson.
Filmmaker Philippe Mora, who lived with Sharp in the late 1960s at The Pheasantry in Chelsea, read a message from co-housemate, singer Eric Clapton. ''Thank you for your friendship and inspiration and for just being you … I'll miss you my friend.''
Mora later told Fairfax Media that while many now admire Sharp's brilliance, his work was at first ridiculed. That dedication, said Mora, took a toughness that belied Sharp's gentle nature.
Seven eulogies included that of Fairfax Media arts writer John McDonald, who spoke of Sharp's battle with the hypocrisy that defined Sydney in the '60s. ''He was never frightened of power, never frightened of authority … All those things were anathema to him.''
The only child of an only child, Sharp's paradoxical public and private lives were made clear, as was his quiet strength and determination to take on the big issues of the day. One of those was the Luna Park Ghost Train fire in 1979, his staunch work a sign of his belief that ''the job of artists is to make the invisible visible''.
NSW Governor Marie Bashir labelled the emphysema that eventually took Sharp's life on December 1 as ''unfair''.
''Like all who knew and loved him,'' she said of the former Bellevue Hill local, ''I shall never forget him.''
Then, as applause followed the hearse up Pitt Street, chalks were passed around and daubs of ''Eternity'', a word that came to immortalise Sharp, soon covered the inner-city pavement.