February 21, 2013
The Rowe cartoon is the definitive representation of how the Canberra Media Gallery represent the Gillard Government: --death stalks the government. Its horror accrues from this image depicting the aftermath of a bloody narrative. The characters are forever marred by an unforgettable memory of the abominations that have occurred.
Rowe refers to the Raft of the Medusa by the French Romantic painter and lithographer Théodore Géricault. It is a painting that embodies a rich field of interpretations that explore the painting's historical, cultural and social significance.
This depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, when 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation, dehydration, cannibalism, and madness.
The Raft of the Medusa portrays the moment when, after 13 days adrift on the raft, the remaining 15 survivors view a ship approaching from a distance. The makeshift raft is shown as barely seaworthy as it rides the deep waves, while the men are rendered as broken and in utter despair. One old man holds the corpse of his son at his knees; another tears his hair out in frustration and defeat. A number of bodies litter the foreground, waiting to be swept away by the surrounding waves.
It is a Romantic painting in that it subordinates a public idealised rationality to inner, subjective experience, fixated on the morbid, pushing towards the extremities of suffering and a loss of innocence. It expresses a sense of the tragic rooted in the sublime.