Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 - Art Gallery of Ballarat

Saturday 12 June through Sunday 8 August 2010

Celebrating the art of the cartoonist, In Your Face is a fresh take on how cartoonists have over the past two centuries been able to tackle fundamental themes of politics, sex and money with insight and rigour.

The works are drawn largely from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ballarat which has assembled one of the largest and most representative selections of this art form in Australia.

Gordon Morrison, Curator and Director of the Art Gallery of Ballarat said: “Cartoons have always been able to make us smile, even during some of our most turbulent economic, political, and social times.”

Deliberately held in a year of State and Federal elections, in Your Face is an historical journey that combines a look back to Australia's British roots and a walk through contemporary society and politics from such household names as Nicholson, Tandberg, Leunig and Spooner.

The journey begins with William Hogarth and James Gillray who were both well known in their lifetimes. Gillray was England’s most eminent, and feared, satirical artist until 1811, when mental illness overtook him. His work is characterised by its variety and inventiveness, its venom and earthy humour.

In Your Face includes Gillray’s most famous print, ‘The Plum Pudding in danger’, showing Napoleon and British Prime Minister Pitt carving up the globe of the earth.

“‘The Plum Pudding’ deserves its fame: few political cartoons have ever managed to sum up a momentous and complex historical occasion or capture the essence of two famous protagonists in such an amusing and compelling manner,” says Morrison.

Fittingly, one of the exhibition’s major highlights is a tribute to goldrush cartoonists such Samuel Thomas Gill, George Lacy and Thomas Carrington, who became chief cartoonist for Melbourne Punch in 1868.

As Morrison says: “The gold rushes of the 1850s totally transformed Australian society. Some of the first humorous and satirical images were produced on Australian soil around this time by a number of trained artists who joined the swarm to the diggings.”

Featured in the show is Thomas Carrington’s work - hardly known nowadays, is some of the strongest and most incisive political cartoons ever to have been made in Australia. His chief target was the radical politician Graham Berry, whom he depicted in all manner of unflattering guises including as an ‘octopus of humbug’ in ‘Berryism! Is this the thing to live on!(?)’

Taking us up to today are the works of Rick Amor, Les Tanner, Arthur Horner, Bruce Petty, Michael Leunig, Peter Nicholson, John Spooner, Ron Tandberg and Judy Horacek.

Rick Amor has become a major figure within the mainstream of Australian art. However, for a period in the late 1970s, he also worked as a cartoonist. His ‘Austral Arcady’ of 1979 shows how Amor is thoroughly at home with the notion of using of humour to make an image that comments on the prevailing Australian lifestyle. This gouache shows the action in the ‘typical backyard’ on a weekend afternoon with an ‘Aussie bloke’ preparing an array of burnt offerings on ‘the barbie’ while ‘the wife’ picks up her toddler.

Neither aloof nor judgemental, the cartoon mocks the notion that such a utopia could be found in a suburban Australian backyard.

Michael Leunig is a self-proclaimed refugee from the milieu of the political cartoon. Of all the cartoonists in Australia’s history, Michael Leunig probably comes closest to assuming the role of the ‘holy fool’ of medieval legend. Many of his works pass direct comment on the world, whether the arms race in ‘Defending the cave’ or the on-field behaviour of the Australian cricket team in ‘The well crafted art of ultra-subtle sledging’.

Female cartoonists only began to achieve any serious degree of recognition in the 1970s and 80s with the work of artists such as Judy Horacek. In Your Face features several of her works including ‘Woman with altitude’ and ‘Animal Impersonations’, which poke fun at the unrealistic expectations of a male dominated world.

The star of the exhibition, however is John Spooner. Everything of importance that has happened in this country since 1974 has been analysed through the genre of the satirical drawing by this extraordinarily prolific and talented artist.

From Whitlam and Fraser to Thatcherism and Reaganomics, Pauline Hanson, 9/11 and its aftermath, asylum seekers and detention camps, climate change and repeated global financial crises, Spooner’s vision is essentially humanist in outlook and deeply concerned for the well being of this nation.

Spooner has spoken about the difficulty of presenting a viewpoint that is contrary to what he perceives as the prevailing public opinion, citing the issues of asylum seekers and the climate change debate as recent examples where he has ‘gone out on a limb’ by creating work which may not find public favour or toe an editorial line.

In Your Face shows quite clearly how cartoons work to divert and release us from non-stop political comment. It is also demonstrates how cartoonists go out on a limb to create work which may not find public favour or toe an editorial line. Their effect is viral.

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Art Gallery of Ballarat


The Art Gallery of Ballarat is one of Australia's great art galleries. It remains at the heart of Ballarat's cultural life and offers residents and visitors a vigorous and exciting program of exhibitions, as well as providing an opportunity to walk through the entire span of Australia's art history.

Founded in 1884, the Art Gallery of Ballarat is the oldest regional art gallery in Australia and was the first to be built outside a capital city in the overseas dominions of the British Empire.

The Gallery holds an exceptional collection, built up lovingly, intelligently and often with inspiration over 120 years. The focus of the Collection is to present the history of Australian Art to the current time through paintings and works on paper with selections of sculpture and decorative arts, also looking closely at the work of regional artists and works depicting the growth of Ballarat.


Penny Underwood
P: 03 9818 8540
W: www.artgalleryballarat.com.au

Keywords

cartoons, in your face, art gallery ballarat, ballarat victoria, John Spooner, cartoonists

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