Martin Sullivan was an instant sensation with his 1984 exhibition at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt—he was still a student at Dunedin’s Otago Polytechnic School of Fine Art. In the Listener, John Roberts wrote that, ‘at the age of 21, [he] has already achieved the status of a major artist. His inventive and formal abilities are so great that it is difficult to conceive any limit to his future. This show places him immediately among the top dozen creative talents in the country’.
Two years later, Sullivan's gothic sculptures feature in Wellington City Art Gallery's Installation Series. A Marino ram skeleton is suspended in a trolley made of bent sticks on castors. A bamboo cage incorporates glass, a plate, chicken bones, chicken claws, and chicken excretion. Another bamboo construction supports a flattened dead cat, perhaps roadkill. Sullivan's theme is animal and human mortality.