Behind the Lines – The year in political cartoons at the Museum of Australian Democracy Old Parliament House

Privacy Concerns – Mark Knight Herald Sun 20 April 2020

One of the annual exhibitions that ticks lots of boxes for me is the Behind the Lines one. This puts maybe 100 of the best political cartoons of the year up on the walls of the Old Parliament House. The curators group the cartoons in broad categories in large formats with brief context commentary for visitors to absorb. It is a laugh, it is tough and the creative beauty of the cartoonist’s art is riveting. Seeing a year in review reminds the viewer of the issues that are short term and those which continue. It is well worth a look and is on till November. There is a $2 entry charge for Old Parliament House and the following link is to a website with a video for the Cartoonist of the Year Cathy Wilcox

Premier and the Pen @ State Library of Victoria

I love little targeted exhibitions. On a visit to the State Library of Victoria recently I walked through their large exhibition on books in history and encountered a small exhibition about the relationship between a Premier and the political cartoonists. It was a delightful collection of cartoons of a series of Victorian Premiers with fascinating textual stories about the relationships and contexts of the cartoons and the Premiers. It gave an insight into a past era but pointed to an important ongoing part of our modern society.

A link to a talk that was held that includes one of the cartoons.

Gough Whitlam In his own Century @ National Archives of Australia

Many people my age have an almost idolatrous view of Gough Whitlam. I admit to being in that group. The National Archives of Australia is currently hosting and exhibition on the life of the great man that covers in lots of text and pictures a clear survey of his life from birth till death. Don’t pop in if you want to do it quickly. The Whitlam Centre has put together lots of good text panels and some wonderful pictures. This exhibition seemed wonderfully appropriate to be housed at the Archives.

Some sample pics below


The Opening Day 9 May 1927 @ Museum of Australian Democracy Canberra

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the event Old Parliament House has a walk around exhibition to recall the people and events of the day when it was opened. As with all good exhibitions of this style the detail is precise and multi sourced. The photos come from the famous and the humble and are taken of a diverse citizens and indigenous non citizens and foreign and local significant individuals.

It is not over done but it does a great job of recording the day back in an era in which there was not a million selfies on line to choose from.

Flyers and pics below.

One to eight – Australia’s first Prime Ministers @ Museum of Australian Democracy Canberra

Alison Alder has created a marvelous portrait collection of the first eight men to grace the Australian political landscape in the role of Prime Minister. The pictures are standard styles but have been coloured up and decorated in wonderful fluro flashes of colour.

Perhaps the crowning glory of the exhibition is the sumptuous wall paper on the walls in the rooms. The pattern is geometric and woven into the traditional cameo spaces in the wall papers are traditional oval cameos of the wives of the leaders. It created a remarkable commentary on the world of the time in which the women were wallpaper to the real world of men.

I love the space and I love Alison’s take on our early political leadership.

10 Years of Collecting @ ANU Drill Hall Gallery

21 April – 28 May 2017

There is an extraordinary collection of works on display at the Drill Hall Gallery for the next month. It is a curation of works bought into the ANU collection over the last ten years. The dominant style is abstract but the range is fabulous  There are lots of artists represented and they are listed on the gallery sheet attached.

There are sample pics below.

Another day in Paradise – Myuran Sukumaran @ Campbelltown Arts Centre

13 Jan – 26 March 2017

In the time before his execution, mentored by among others the Australian painter Ben Quilty Myurun Sukumaran deeloped a remarkable gift of painting. In collaboration with his family and exhibition of his remarkable works is on display at the Campbelltown Arts Centre right now. The works are remarkable. They engage with his experiences and his take on the world around him. The paintings include some of family and friends and also politicians. Some of the more confronting images include a bullet and a painting on a large white wall of the weapon that was ultimately used to kill him.

He clearly had a talent but more than that this exhibition confronts the viewer with the death penalty, the war on drugs, politics, culture and hope of all things.

The works are accompanied by responses to Sukumaran’s work from six other artists and several of those are remarkable also. I truly wanted to see this and it was everything I hoped it was,

Some selected images below. The gallery has a full catalogue available with the exhibition

Bald Archy Exhibition @ Watson Arts Centre

An annual prize for caricature portraiture as a parody of the Archibald prize has been going for decades. Each year it comes to Canberra and I love it. The artists look at the national dialogue for the year and produce paintings that parody the people and the issues that have occupied the press and the citizens.

This year there are participants such as Hanson, Turnbull, a collection of sports people, entertainers and other prominent types. They run a people’s choice award and that focuses the mind on how well the artists represent the issues and the personalities.

My favourite was a Violet Trumble in the wonderful purple. background. The most constant and reproduced person was Hanson and many of the images are not complimentary  They have a no photography of the images so I have attached a couple of gallery shots and the sheet put out for intended purchasers.

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Behind the Lines 2016 @ Museum of Australian Democracy

The art of cartooning is one of the great contributions to political understanding and analysis. Funny and profound are often mixed together in one space. Each year the Museum of Australian Democracy hosts a large collection of Australian political cartoons of the previous year on their walls for visitors to see clustered in topical sets.

I love these as an exhibit. It is exciting to see the differences and the similarities. They have samples of lots of cartoonists and many examples of some of the best such as Rowe. They sell the set in a paperback book but to me there is something different about standing and reading them on a wall. I enjoy it and will go back again.

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Dress Code: Empire @ Museum of Australian Democracy

Occasionally an exhibition is built on a single item. At the Museum of Australian Democracy there is a delightful display build around a restored uniform used by Edmund Barton our first Prime Minister. The outfit was found and has been carefully restored to an immaculate standard and embedded in an exhibition which used historical materials to put the clothing in the context of the wearer’s world and and his contribution. The small exhibition is delightful and the content is rich.