Two yobs in a pub, tinnies in hand, casually impale Adam Goodes. A hound on a surfboard cuts a perfect move. Cats carouse in a nightclub. Joan Kirner plays lead guitar. The devil comforts Cardinal George Pell ...
Just some of the memorable images that Natasha Williams-Novak has created for the Bass Coast Post over the past four years.
Natasha has become a much valued part of the team since she first began contributing to the Bass Coast Post in 2014.
Typical wheedling email from desperate Post editor: “Hi Natasha. Sorry for the short notice but I wonder if this might spark any ideas?”
Reply from Natasha: “I’ll see what I can do.” And she does
When Natasha’s cartoons arrive, I open them with a sense of anticipation. I often know what she’s going to do – and I’m always wrong. Her cartoons come out of left field. Her references are classical and biblical, her knowledge encyclopaedic. Her ideas are so much more sophisticated than anything I could even think, let alone draw. Sometimes they make me laugh; at other times I wince.
Natasha was born and grew up in Czechoslovakia. She arrived in Australia in 1965 at the age of 22 and taught herself English by reading local newspapers. She remains deeply interested in current affairs. She brings a slight outsider’s view, which adds a special acuity to her observations of Australian ways.
Looking at her Adam Goodes cartoon, you cannot help but think of Jesus nailed to the cross. She sums up the horrors inflicted on children in Darwin's Don Dale youth detention centre with two salivating wolves looking down at a small helpless hooded figure. One wolf says to the other: “What do you think they had in mind when they put us in charge?”
Others are just funny. One of my favourites is her response to the daytime ban on dogs on Inverloch beaches. Remember the hysteria? Little old ladies cried and said they would have to move and local real estate agents predicted a crash in the property market.
Natasha’s response: a hound on a surfboard cuts a perfect move while a couple of others do what comes naturally in the sand.
Her cartoon animals are always knowing: decadent dogs, carousing cats in a speakeasy (in response to a new cat curfew). When the state government announced a $50 million redevelopment of the Penguin Parade, she drew a couple of cigar-chomping penguins driving a speedboat loaded with rods and reels out to their fishing grounds.
She does what all good political cartoonists do and that is to puncture the vanity and pomposity of the powerful. Cardinal George Pell is comforted by the devil, Bronwyn Bishop rides a broomstick to her doom, Tony Abbott tilts at windmills while his loyal lieutenant Joe Hockey is humped by a donkey.
It is not all satire and sarcasm. This year's Christmas cartoon of Rudolf and Prancer celebrates marriage equality. “I Love Rock `n` Roll” pays tribute to the former premier, Joan Kirner. “Gone Farnarkling” marks the sudden death of satirist John Clarke. “Look Who’s Wearing the Trousers Now” follows the election of Kimberley Brown as Bass Coast Mayor and Jordan Crugnale as her deputy.
The unexpectedness of Natasha’s ideas is one aspect; the artistry of the cartoons is another. The images are apparently slap-dash but it’s a hard-won simplicity, refined from decades of practising and thinking about art. She uses a combination of collage and watercolour on thick card with the words spelt out in thick felt pen or pasted onto the cards, so they are tactile, physical objects. Even the scanned images look so textured and three-dimensional that I want to touch them. I am looking forward to seeing the original works at Meeniyan.
Art has been a constant in Natasha’s life, with many group and solo exhibitions. She is always working on something in her Ventnor studio. “I need art,” she says.
For Post writers it’s a special privilege to have her illustrate their work. One who laboured for weeks to produce 800 words was astonished to find Natasha summed it up in a quick cartoon. “How did she do that?” the writer asked.
After Natasha illustrated one of Geoff Ellis’s recent essays, he wrote: “Please thank her for me - seeing her cartoon next to my piece makes me feel a little bit special (and a bit humble.)”
Bob Middleton recently wrote: “What a great body of work cartoonist Natasha has contributed to the Post. Each cartoon has been created with skill and insight and unerringly hits the mark. Of course I have my favourite but since it enhances an article I submitted I am reluctant to disclose which one.”
Natasha’s Take, an exhibition of the original prints of her Post cartoons, is at the Meeniyan Art Gallery from January 5 to February 2. All works are for sale. The exhibition runs in association with exhibitions by three other Bass Coast artists, Steve Parker, Heather Fahnle and Meg McCarthy. The official launch is at 2pm on Sunday, January 7. It would be lovely to see Post readers there.