Earthworks 1972-1979

Earthworks produced some of the most iconic images of political activism in the 1970s, including ‘Give Frazer the Razor’. Posted up at night around Sydney these posters helped politicize a generation of Australian youth.

Earthworks was founded in 1971 by Colin Little – an ex-engineering student and university dropout. Drawing both graphic inspiration from the times (the late 60s English counter culture and the psychedelic posters from the USA) and armed with the knowledge that posters had long been used as propaganda – most recently at that time by the Chinese government and the ‘Atelier Populaire’ French student movement in May 1968, Earthworks set out to marry the two and produce posters which reflected both the social and political concerns of the 70s.

The Earthworks symbol – stamped on every poster was the ancient symbol of the all seeing eye within the grounds of an equilateral triangle – a new symbol popularized by the ‘New Age’ movement. The alternative lifestyle movement of the time with its emphasis on collectivism became the driving management force and in 1972 the Earthworks Poster Collective was formed.

Early members included Mitch Johnson, Tim Burns and Mostyn Bramley-Moore and the Optronics Kinetics. Public access was encouraged. Now operated out of the Tin Sheds at Sydney University, students from the Architecture faculty were also involved with formal classes beginning in 1973. In 1974 the collective expanded with Toni Robertson, Chips Mackinolty and Mark Arbuz joining. In 1976/7 joined by recent art graduates - Michael Callaghan, Marie McMahon and Jan Mackay followed by Ray Young and Jan Fieldsent in 1978. The all-male environment had changed together with the discipline brought by art school training.

As Therese Kenyon said ‘The Tin Sheds at the time acted as a catalyst for many activities. Photo stencils printed in sharp flat colours with increasing professionalism produced posters of iconic power. Pasted up at night around Sydney, these posters helped politicize a generation of Australian youth.’ Therese Kenyon, ‘Under a hot tin roof: art, passion and politics at the Tin Sheds Art Workshops.’ State Library of New South Wales Press.

Earthworks Posters became more political in focus with dance posters and one-off social commentary been replaced by targeted campaigns – Aboriginal land rights, gay and lesbian rights, the women’s movement, anti-nuclear movement, the unemployed and worker’s rights and environmental campaigns.’

Connor Conference
Connor Conference
Michael Callaghan, Gregor Cullen - 1982


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