COVID-19 update: State Library is gradually reopening. Before you visit, please read what spaces are open.
Nothing better represents the important role of a free press in a healthy democracy than political cartooning. And Australia is blessed with outstanding cartoonists from across the political spectrum — cartoonists who are mainstream, regional, digital and increasingly independent.
In a world where every year sees a decline in nations that enjoy a free press, our media daily offers up cartoons that comment, lampoon and occasionally sympathise with our politicians and their actions. This is something to treasure and defend. Despite the increasing difficulties in separating misinformation and opinion from matters of fact, our cartoonists are champions when it comes to cutting through the rhetoric, skewering the fake and talking truth to power.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland provides the inspiration for Behind the Lines. This iconic children’s story sees Alice fall down a very deep rabbit-hole into a strange and puzzling world, a topsy-turvy place where nothing is quite as it seems. This theme seemed appropriate for a political year filled with turmoil, high drama, and unexpected twists and turns.
Cartoonist of the Year, Matt Golding, has been delighting fans for years with his work for Fairfax publications. He excels at the ‘pocket’ cartoon style, featuring a single issue to which he brings insight and humour. This year Matt has loved the banking royal commission, by-elections, tax cuts and, of course, the spectre of Tony Abbott looming over the government. For more information, visit Matt’s website.
Exhibition curator, Libby Stewart from Museum of Australian Democracy in Old Parliament House in Canberra explains her Top Five Picks from Behind the Lines: The year’s best political cartoons 2018, with the theme Curiouser & Curiouser inspired by Alice’s adventures in Wonderland.
Swings and Roundabouts accompanies Behind the Lines with a glance in the rear-view mirror at Queensland politics. It dips into State Library’s collection of original cartoons to explore the ups and downs of the last one hundred years, recalling Queensland’s radical days as the Red North and bringing the Australian politician, Joh Bjelke-Petersen years sharply back into focus.
It revisits some of the pivotal moments in Queensland politics since Joh’s demise and tells the tale of the forays into Canberra of Pauline Hanson and Kevin Rudd.
Cartoonists have a powerful ability to sum up the zeitgeist and to distil an era into a drawing which says more than pages of text. This display contains works by some of the masters of the art, from the early twentieth century cartoonists A.J. Hingston and Hal Eyre, to artists like Neil Matterson, Sean Leahy and Alan Moir.
Get competitive with the political card game, or try your hand at sketching your self-portrait from a distorted mirror. Bring along your family and friends to debate, sketch and play.
Don't forget to stop by the Library Shop to grab your Behind the Lines and Swings and Roundabouts souvenir, or shop online anytime.
Behind the Lines is a travelling exhibition developed by Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, proudly supported by the National Collection Institutions Touring and Outreach program, an Australian Government program aiming to improve access to the national collections for all Australians.