Image courtesy of Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Currently showing at the State Library of Queensland is an exhibition of the best political cartoons published in Australia in 2018. The project was instigated in 2008 by the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra and designed to show a selection of the year’s best cartoons in their curated form, mounted and framed as artworks.

The 2018 exhibition, titled Behind the Lines, was shown first in Canberra before touring to other locations and venues such as State Library. There is a wide range of styles and political perspectives present in the exhibition. Unlike fine artists, most of the cartoonists freelance for various newspapers. They work to regular and tight deadlines and many have created a name for themselves in Queensland.

The exhibition’s thematic metaphor is a reference to Alice in Wonderland. In the central image, Alice stares at the images of LAB and LIB framed by an oversized keyhole and images appear to parody the politics of the day in a similar way to her adventures in Wonderland.  The curator has used this device to make the exhibition accessible for primary and secondary school students as a means of creating relevant resources for teachers. Semiotic analysis could be used very effectively as a tool for examining the various ways humour is harnessed by the cartoonists in this excellent collection.

What makes this exhibition worth seeing is the intelligent way viewers can make comparisons between individual artists and their talents and the unique way each teases out political ideologies in their own way.

The works immediately make the viewer smile  when they recognise the political event being referenced.

The show closes with a video showing Matt Golding, the winner of Behind the Lines 2018 Political Cartoonist of the Year, working on his ideas in his studio. The video demonstrates how cartoonists bring issues and wit together with minimal strokes of the pen on paper.

Bill Leak once observed ten years ago that while cartoonists have developed ways of making life hell for politicians, politicians have developed ways of making life hell for us too. It seems little has changed.


Behind the Lines: The year’s best political cartoons 2018.
Free exhibition
10 Aug – 27 Oct
Open daily | slq Gallery, level 2


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