Curator's highlights of Behind the Lines 2022
Behind the Lines, our annual exhibition of the year's political cartoons, is back again. This year, exhibition curator Amy Lay had the difficult task of selecting the cartoons for display, drawing from over 1000 of the best works from Australia's political cartooning community. She made it look so easy that we've raised the stakes, asking her to pick her top 5 favourite cartoons from Behind the Lines 2022.
Employee of the Year
The Canberra Times
29 July 2022
The panel of judges for the 2022 Political Cartoonist of the Year agreed that The Canberra Times’ own David Pope had a standout year. Again and again, his cartoons captured the public mood.
When the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of monkeypox to be a global emergency on 24 July, David Pope suggested that ‘pestilence’ had managed to pip his apocalyptic horsemen colleagues for employee of the year, despite the damage caused by record floods, wildfires in America and Europe and the war in Ukraine.
The Cost of Living Iceberg
The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age
9 June 2022
An overpriced lettuce became the totem for Australia’s economic concerns in June, when a perfect storm of factors – flood-destroyed crops, supply chain interruptions, inflation, COVID-19 outbreaks – saw the leafy vegetable hit prices in excess of $11. Matt Golding’s visual pun played with the imminent threat to the ‘good ship’ Cost of Living posed by the humble ‘iceberg’.
Matt Golding’s pocket cartoons always contain a sharp message and clever imagery. The absurdity of an $11 lettuce is highlighted here, but Golding also points out the potential for many Australians to go underwater as the cost of living crisis continued.
Big Week for SCOTUS
The Sydney Morning Herald/The Age
27 June 2022
Megan Herbert returned to Behind the Lines in 2022, having only appeared in Behind the Lines for the first time in 2021. Her cartoon ‘All in a week’s work’, published after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade abortion rights decision and expanded gun rights, was the pinnacle of a breakout year.
International events are often on the radar of Australian cartoonists, especially those as significant as these Supreme Court decisions. Herbert’s cartoon conveys a visceral and immediate message. It only takes her a handful of well-chosen lines to draw together the two issues in a scathing indictment of the court. The dripping blood is a comment not only on the lives already lost to unsafe back-alley abortions and gun violence, but also on the grave potential for further needless deaths.
Glen Le Lievre
3 May 2022
The classic Australian chocolate bar meets politics – what a combination! The Polly Waffle, a chocolate bar made up of a waffle wafer tube filled with marshmallow, was first produced in 1947, but was eventually discontinued in 2009. It was due to return to Australian supermarket shelves in 2021, but was pushed back due to the pandemic.
The term ‘Pollie waffle’, as a description of a certain type of evasive political speech, has also been around for a long time. Glen Le Lievre implies that this election campaign has seen its fair share of evasive waffling, which unlike the chocolate bar doesn’t appear to have taken a 16-year break in production.
Into the COVIDverse
18 July 2022
After the initial Omicron COVID-19 wave in January, two subvariants of Omicron were identified: BA.4 and BA.5. These two strains proved even more transmissible than the original Omicron, and soon made up the majority of cases in Australia’s winter COVID waves. Few experts expected them to be the last.
Chris Downes’ approach to the new variants ripping through the population in winter ’22 made me laugh out loud – a welcome bout of levity during the winter peak. It also led to speculation about whether a pineapple-topped variant could turn out to be even more unpopular than Omicron and Delta had been.