Exhibition celebrates Hawke’s cartoonable face

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“Scramble!” by Bill Mitchell (“The Australian”, c. 1989)

Arts editor HELEN MUSA previews an exhibition dedicated to four decades of cartoons of former PM Bob Hawke, who was voted the prime minister the cartoonists most liked to draw.

WHEN it comes to cartoonable faces of recent Australian prime ministers, the late Bob Hawke’s is the winner. 

Bob Hawke by John Spooner (“The Independent Monthly”, c.1990).

In a recent survey by the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, Hawke was voted the favourite PM to draw. “Hawkie”, or “the Silver Bodgie”, won with 28.5 per cent of the vote.

Tony Abbott was runner-up with 23 per cent and John Howard and Julia Gillard came in equal third. 

Caricature artist Mark Tippett will stage an exhibition of Bob Hawke cartoons from November 30-December 14 at the Kurrajong Hotel, once home to many of our former leaders, notably Ben Chifley.

In “HAWKIE! Drawn to politics: Four decades of Bob Hawke cartooning brilliance”, there will be around 75 cartoons from 40 of Australia’s best cartoonists (with the odd New Zealander thrown in), not least Warren Brown, Bill Mitchell, Sean Leahy, Bill Leak, Alan Moir, Eric Löbbecke and Jeff Hook. 

As the “Daily Telegraph’s” Warren Brown put it: “In his prime, his face was broad, crevassed and suntanned, his mouth in a kind of permanent scowl, eyes laying aggressively beneath those eyebrows – great scimitars of disapproval – the whole lot topped with a luxuriant shock of immaculate silver hair.”

The exhibition comes in the lead-up to the annual cartooning summit at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD), which features the launch of “Behind The Lines” and the Stanley Awards. 

During his time as PM, Tippett says Hawke recorded the highest popularity rating ever measured by an Australian opinion poll, reaching 75 per cent approval in 1984. 

The exhibition will showcase his early career, spanning his time with the ACTU to becoming Australia’s 23rd prime minister in 1983 and including cartoon renditions of his now-famous remark as Australia II took line honours in the America’s Cup: “Any boss who sacks someone today is a bum”. 

Filling in the gaps, Tippett reminds us that the Hawke government created Medicare and Landcare, brokered the Prices and Incomes Accord, established APEC, floated the Australian dollar, introduced the Family Assistance Scheme and oversaw the passage of the Australia Act, much to the delight of Australia’s cartoonists.

Tippett says the show is “not only a testament to Bob’s ‘everyman’ charisma and powerful identity, but also serves as a time capsule for the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s from some of this country’s best black-and-white artists.”

PM Bob Hawke by Steve Panozzo (1990)

According to Steve Panozzo, secretary of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, it’s all been Tippett’s own hard work, since the association is busy with the Stanleys’ opening on the same weekend as the show’s formal launch.

“When he was looking around appropriate venues he found that the Kurrajong had been looking around for something different for the season.”

Tippett has devised a special event at the Kurrajong on December 5 featuring Labor powerbroker Graham “Richo” Richardson, with a likely appearance from former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. 

And what will the guests be drinking? Hawke’s beer, of course.

“HAWKIE!”, Hotel Kurrajong, Barton, November 30-December 14. Free entry.

2019 Stanley Awards Weekend, Canberra, December 5-8. Registrations at cartoonists.org.au

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Helen Musa
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