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INKED: A history of Australian Cartooning come to life

There are a few that say cartooning is a dying art form, and on the face of things this may be true. However after visiting the exhibition, ‘INKED: Australian Cartoons’ at the National Library of Australia, one finds a new respect for our past, present and aspiring Australian cartoonists.

Cartooning has evolved quite a fair bit over the years. In the 21st century people perhaps have not quite appreciated the work done by previous cartoonists, and quite frankly after seeing ‘INKED – an exhibition’, on now at the National Library of Australia, this is sure to change.

As you enter the exhibition you are greeted with this gentle and inviting tune, propelling from somewhere deeper in the exhibit which straight away invited intrigue and wonder. As you make your way through the exhibit you are taken on a visual tour of Australian history. The accompanying information provided under cartoon is filled with insightful detail which gives you great context and can give a greater breadth of understanding for what the meaning of the work is.

The exhibition conveys the importance of cartoons and illustrations in commenting on Australian culture and society. Cartoonists were considered ‘stars’ of their time, and the truly professional  ones could make quite a name for themselves. If they were good enough to picked up by Smiths Weekly, around the mid 1900’s, you would be paid quite handsomely.

By the middle of the 20th century cartoonists had established themselves as an essential part of Australian media and print culture. Cartoons had evolved from simply providing amusing illustrations to challenging our culture and political landscape.

There were many different voices on display as you made your way through the ages of the library. Different voices expressing different views, expressing true creativity. Satire is mainly expressed in GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) form nowadays and often has very little substance, usually having the singular purpose of capturing the humorous side of a topic or issue. Satire was used by these cartoonists to inspire conversation and inviting the reader to challenge their points of view. One could argue that today’s society doesn’t have the attention span or time to take in this concept so we are reduced to a 3 second clip on repeat.

The exhibit itself flows quite well and would only take up maybe 3o minutes to an hour of your time to go through it all. It’s also very easy to find in the National Library of Australia, just a 10 minute bus ride from Civic (Canberra CBD). As you make your way around the exhibit you will find people of all ages surrounding you too, so bring on anyone who loves or has an interest in the Arts, it’s suitable for all ages.

Cartooning in the 21st century has changed a fair deal. A new breed of freelance cartoonists, often working from a home studio rather than an office as part of the newsroom. Some notable female cartoonists now represent a new voice in a male dominated industry. Whilst not as popular as before, Australian cartoonists continue to provide a source of entertainment and commenting on life in Australia, from the Sydney Olympics to comments over the modern-day dependency on digital technology.

At the very end of the exhibition there is also entertainment for the children as well. A corner in the back room providing the new generation of kids to have a draw of their own cartoons. There is also a TV playing an animated cartoon of a selection of various cartoons, which provide a dark reflection on the nature of modern society.

So, put down your devices for an hour or so and visit the ‘INKED: Australian Cartooning exhibit’ and experience the original GIF’s of the world.

The exhibition is free and running until 21 July 2019.

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