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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Number 2. 11th March 1976]

Bromhead Top of the Cartoonist Pile?

Bromhead Top of the Cartoonist Pile?

The exhibition of political cartoons and drawings by Peter Bromhead at the Wellington Settlement is the best show in town graphically and politically, and definitely the funniest thing to have surfaced in this gully for a long time.

Erstwhile Salient scribbler (as is Tom Scott might I add), and for sometime, resident editorial cartoonist on the Auckland Star, Bromhead is a devastating satirist, streets ahead of any competition in this country, and very much up with the game internationally. Guardian cartoonist and expatriate N.Z.'er Les Gibbard, who drew for the Evening Post for a few weeks recently, to pay, no doubt, for his holiday in Godzone is a pedestrian bore by comparison, with a line like a strand of soggy spaghetti, only less interesting. Perhaps he was out of his depth in the subtle intrigue of N.Z. politics.

The local mutual admiration society of Nevile Lodge and Eric Heath are about as funny and as predictable as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, although Heath is capable of the occasional surprise. His op art tie on the quite large dark blue expanse of the shirt he wore to take in the Bromhead show certainly surprise me. He looked as if he'd fallen out of one of Bromhead's colour drawings, one of which (exhibited here) was runner up at the slightly reputable Tokoroa Competition last year.


Bromhead is a splended cartoonist, he best we've got. His colour drawings however lack the bite and incisiveness, the economy of line and the pointedness of the cartoons. Although they are quite whimsically charming, they come across as doodles, which, I am sure he'd agree, is precisely what they are. Not in my opinion, prize-winning or even runner-up material, they are hardly to be compared with 'Dubuffet and Matta and that tribe' as Ernest Smith (director of the Auckland City Gallery and incidentally, judge of the Tokoroa show) does in an unbelievably pretentious Star review (which smacked not a little of backscratching or worse) of Bromhead's recent Barry Lett show.

I wonder how Mr Muldoon feels when he sees himself caricatured on The Star's leader page. Oddly, his striking physiognomy seems to elude Bromhead who depicts him as a slit-eyed toad, or as some kind of malevolent Humpty Dumpty. Perhaps when our broadcasting and TV news are on a more 'responsible' and manageable basis, the screws on editorial pages (and cartoonists) will be tightened even further.


With other personalities, Bromhead is more adept at getting to the essence. The unforgetable cartoons of Arthur Faulkner playing High Noon at Kawerau, Hugh Watt peering myopically at an optician's chart which reads 'go home Hugh' and Whetu yoked to Rowling in a helpless three legged race. These are classics, as is the superb Marshall knighthood cartoon. Perhaps when the Prime Minister learns that this and several others have been irresponsibly purchased by the Turnbull Library he will call for the resignation of the National Librarian.

Bromhead's line lives and breathes. His mature style, which this work represents, is highly articulate. His sense of the macabre and the ridiculous, prerequisites for a political cartoonist in this day and age, is impecabble and his acute intelligence and acerbic wit are I hope irrepressible. Don't miss this show, you'll kick yourself if you do. I predict there won't be too much to laugh at in the near future.

As an afterthought, portraying Muldoon as an egg may not be so inapropriate. The Oxford Dictionary defines a humpty dumpty as a person who makes words mean what he chooses. Did you know that Bromhead?

Neil Rowe