The art of struggle

February 29, 2008

A History Lesson: Art from the Howard Era

Ray Hughes Gallery, Surry Hills, Sydney

Images at


Until March 15

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the waterfront dispute, the Ray Hughes Gallery is proud to present A History Lesson, a group show featuring works by Bill Hay, Glenn Morgan, Spook (aka Gary James), Bill Leak, Bruce Petty and Alan Moir.

Looking back on works of art and commentary created during John Howard's 11 1/2 years in government, the paintings, sculptures and cartoons allow us to reflect on the sociopolitical issues of this period.

Tackling subject matter including the war in Iraq, immigration detention centres and industrial relations "reform" with hard-hitting directness and humour, A History Lesson presents the audience with lessons that ultimately highlight attitudes to human values.

Bill Hay graduated in 1983 from the Victorian College of the Arts. In addition to having his work hung several times in the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, he has been included in numerous group exhibitions such as Drawing on Inspiration at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery and The Urban Edge at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Hay has been exhibiting at the Ray Hughes Gallery since the late '80s and selected works from his solo exhibition Hugger Mugger (dealing with the 1998 Maritime Union of Australia dispute) are included in A History Lesson.

Hay's politically charged artworks may also be found in collections throughout Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Brisbane Museum of Contemporary Art and Parliament House, Canberra.

Glenn Morgan has participated in group exhibitions since the mid-'70s and has also had his work hung in the Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. His painting "Baxter Detention Centre" was selected as a Sulman Prize finalist last year and is included in the exhibition. Morgan's paintings, prints and mechanised diaoramas are included in the collections of the Warrnambool Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, Art Bank, the Victorian College of the Arts, Print Council Archives and the Australian Craft Council.

Spook (aka Gary James) is another graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts. Since 1977, Spook has shown in a great number of group exhibitions held in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, the most recent of which have been The Big Drawing Showat the Ray Hughes Gallery in 2007 and Sci-Fi at the Stephen McLaughlin Gallery, Melbourne in 2006.

Spook's iconic artworks, which often reflect the most colourful aspects of contemporary Australian life, are also located in collections such as the National Gallery of Victoria, St Kilda Council Art Collection and the Melbourne University Museum of Modern Art.

Bill Leak is best known as the daily editorial cartoonist on the Australian newspaper. However, Leak is also a celebrated portrait painter, caricaturist and radio host. Leak has had his work hung in the Archibald Prize on 11 occasions and won the People's Choice Award for his portrait of Malcolm Turnbull in 1994, as well as the Packing Room Prize in 1997 and 2000. Leak has also been the recipient of a 1997 and 2002 Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Alan Moir currently works as the editorial cartoonist for the Sydney Morning Herald, having worked at the Bulletin and for the Brisbane Courier Mail. In addition to being awarded 2nd prize in the United Nations Political Cartoon of the Year 2004, Moir has been awarded the Editorial Cartoonist of the Year six times and has received a Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2000 and 2006. The renowned cartoonist also has his work in collections ranging from the State Libraries of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria to the private collection of former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

Many will recognise Bruce Petty as one of the most prominent political satirists in Australia today. From illustrating for the Colorgravure publishing unit of the Melbourne Herald, to contributing to the New Yorker, Esquire and Punch, Petty cemented his position as a political cartoonist during his tenure at the Bulletin, Daily Mirror and Australian newspapers. Petty took out the People's Choice award for Best Political Satire at the Bringing the House Down exhibition held at the National Museum of Australia in 2001 and his illustrations are to be found collections such as the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the National Gallery of Australia and the Victorian Arts Centre. Petty is presently working as a regular contributor to the Age newspaper in Melbourne.

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