Behind the Lines 2017: The Three-Ring Circus

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra | Nov 2017-Oct 2018; Touring 2017-2018
Curator: Holly Williams

David Rowe, commissioned cartoon for Behind the Lines 2017,2017

David Rowe, commissioned cartoon for Behind the Lines 2017,2017

About the exhibition:

Before the internet, television or the cinema, the circus was the world’s greatest entertainment industry.  In their heyday they were home to grand spectacle and wonder. Reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum in shape and the inclusion of exotic animals, the circus supplied eager audiences with theatrical acts of daring, glamour and boisterous fun. Fast forward a hundred years, under the unquenchable appetite of the 24-hour news cycle, and we see Question Time playing out in the circular form of the parliamentary chambers - democracy itself has become the new spectacle.

The three-ring circus, first coined as a term in 1881 for simultaneous performances, now includes the definition as something wild, confusing, engrossing, or entertaining. As the theme for this year’s Behind the Lines, the three-ring circus captures the feeling of a world in turmoil, where fact and fiction seemingly collide.

 The exhibition showcases the year’s best political cartoons, highlighting themes of freedom of the press and democracy in action, and features work from John Shakespeare, David Rowe, Michael Leunig, Cathy Wilcox and Mark Knight, among others.

Political cartoonist David Rowe claimed 2017’s Political Cartoonist of the Year award as part of the launch of Behind the Lines 2017. David Rowe has met the events both at home and abroad with a dark intensity and unflinching pen. The figures he draws become lurid, bordering on the grotesque as he gives visual form to our uneasy feelings on the state of the world. An editorial cartoonist for the Australian Financial Review, David has captured Australia’s political landscape with bold brush strokes and biting humour since the late 80s.

Tour Schedule:

Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, NSW: 15 December 2017 to 4 February 2018
Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, Toowoomba, QLD: 10 February to 29 March 2018
Parramatta Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, NSW: 11 April to 6 June 2018
Albury Library Museum, Albury, NSW: 23 June to 14 August 2018
Old Treasury Building, Melbourne, VIC: 27 August to 15 October 2018
Bunker Cartoon Gallery, Coffs Harbour, NSW: 26 October to 2 December 2018

media coverage

Ron Cerabona, David Rowe named 2017 political cartoonist of the year at Behind the Lines, The Canberra Times, 24 November 2017
Clare Colley, David Rowe has been named political cartoonist of the year by Behind the Lines, The Australian Financial Review, 24 November 2017
Dan Bourchier, Why are political cartoons so important for politics? Hear how the 2017 Cartoonist of the Year David Rowe was chosen, Breakfast, ABC Radio Canberra, 24 November 2017
Jennifer Rajca, Cartoons capture crazy Canberra circus, The West Australian, 24 November 2017

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