From great art to kitsch craftsmanship, prime ministers have inspired artists through the COVID pandemic


The daily pandemic updates released by the respective leader of each state have had an unintended consequence for artists trying to make sense of their new reality.

With a large number of COVID cases and prolonged lockdowns, Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and former New South Wales leader Gladys Berejiklian have been in the media spotlight almost daily since the start of last year.

Meanwhile, WA Premier Mark McGowan has been the center of national attention for his uncompromising approach to the pandemic, essentially closing the border in a bid to keep COVID-19 out of state.

Besides trying to navigate the logistics of a global pandemic, another thing the leaders have in common is the fact that they have been muses for artists across the country.

Mel Taylor says much of his work has been inspired by the pandemic.(ABC Goldfields: Madison Snow)

Ms. Berejiklian has an Instagram page dedicated to fan art made in her image; mediums range from rough sketches to baked goods.

Georgie Mattingley, a visual artist who creates politically-oriented works, said it was unusual to see a politician portrayed in such a playful manner.

Press conferences inspire musicians

Mr. Andrews’ famous “get on the beers” press conference inspired artwork, commercial merchandise and a song by Mashd N Kutcher that made it to the Triple J’s Hottest 100 this year.


Mr. McGowan’s kebab press conference had a similar effect, inspiring a knitting by artist Emma Buswell that was purchased by the Art Gallery of WA and a satirical country love song titled Mark McGowan by Chels Sings Things.

A tattoo of a man in a bandana on one leg.
A Perth man had Mark McGowan’s face tattooed on his leg earlier this year.(Instagram: Jack of all Fades)

e WA Premier has also been captured several times in a more formal light on canvas; a painting titled State Daddy was nominated for the prestigious Lester Prize by artist Jenny Davies.

In Kalgoorlie, two portraits of Mr. McGowan were presented for the Golden Mile Art Prize, which was won by Shayna Moses-Taurima with her depiction of the Prime Minister in Lego.

“Mark McGowan, like other prime ministers across the country, has been a frequent figure in our media for the past 15 months or so, so he was the study for my job,” she said.

“What I love about him is he’s such a boy next door, he’s just a typical Australian larrikin.”

A woman in a red hat standing next to a lego portrait of Washington State Premier Mark McGowan.
Shayna Moses-Taurima won the Golden Mile Art Prize.(ABC Goldfields: Madison Snow)

Kalgoorlie artist Mel Taylor also entered a portrait of McGowan in the Golden Mile Prize and ended up purchasing the work of Moses-Tauriuma.

She said COVID-19 influenced her work.

“We’re surrounded by media, and not just TV and radio, but social media and print media – as an artist I use that to make sense of what’s going on and then y respond, ”Taylor said.

“[McGowan] he doesn’t mind laughing and he’s very down to earth and happy to help, like when I asked him why he said yes to allowing me to paint him he just said he wanted to help.


Important criticism for democracy

Mattingley said that while it was an artist’s prerogative to create the work he wanted, even if it was just something or someone he loved, there were pitfalls in portraying politicians without a critical focus.

“I have seen it before, and unfortunately I don’t know if it is my study of art history that has affected my perception of art, but I see it in times of strong propaganda and I think that’s what can be worrying about it, “she said.

“I think it’s actually undemocratic and that’s what scares me.”

A woman in a black shirt is smiling at the camera
Georgie Mattingley says portraying politicians without a critical focus can be undemocratic. (ABC Goldfields: Madison Snow)

She said artists should be aware that their work could be used to tell a story they hadn’t intended.

“Even if you paint a picture of Mark McGowan and say it’s because you love him and want to paint and tell a good story about him and the work he does, you can’t really control the way this painting will be viewed., ”she said.

“While we are living it and painting it, we just have to live with it.”


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