Exhibition opening draws on more than Hawkie’s face

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Gareth Evans with cartoons

REMINISCENCES ranged from the affectionate to the raunchy when former labor ministers Graham “Richo” Richardson and Gareth Evans helped unveil an exhibition of cartoons about the late Bob Hawke at the Hotel Kurrajong today (December 5).

The show titled simply “Hawkie!” was the brainchild of cartoonist Mark Tippett, conceived after he noticed how many cartoonists had been uploading their Hawke pictures to social media, a sign of the former Prime Minister’s popularity as a subject.

In a recent survey by the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, Hawke was voted the favourite PM to draw. “Hawkie” 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.

Most of the 75 images – just a sample, Tippett said – were by members of the Australian Cartoonists Association, which is organising the exhibition, and in this show, “their line work lives on”.

Richardson, architect of the Machiavellian principle that you succeed in politics by doing “whatever it takes”, said of the late Hawke, “it’s almost as if he was born to be drawn… It was a face that all of you loved, maybe not him, but that face would always draw a crowd.”

Graham Richardson, speaking, with Gareth Evans.

Richardson surprised some of those present when he commented, “he looked like he could be aggressive, but he was not an aggressive person by nature, unless he’d had a few beers.”

Working with him had always been fun, he said. He had met Hawke in his 20s when he was his driver.

“He never treated me as anything but an equal. He was not just a great PM but a great man,” he said.

Evans described Hawke as “relentlessly and abundantly physical”, with physical gestures like the ear-tug that comedian Max Gillies had immortalised, as well as his propensity for bursting into tears and his “exuberant, snarling invective”.

Not a spiritual man, Evans said, he “gloried in his own body… and purred in budgie smugglers by the pool.” Yet ironically, he remarked, it was Tony Abbott who was ridiculed for his budgie smugglers.

Hawke, he said, fell short of perfection, with a strange lack of neglect of the laws of arithmetic when it came to playing golf and tennis.

“But if Bob wasn’t perfect, gee he was good,” he said.

He held sway over his party in the country and crafted a grand narrative for Australia.

“Caricatured, yes, but ridiculed, no,” Evans said.

“HAWKIE!”, Hotel Kurrajong, Barton, until 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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