I told you so.
Signed and inscribed with edition details lower right corner in black fibre-tipped pen, 'ROBERT SIM A.P.' Printed title centre within image, 'I told / you so.'
printed image (irregular) 39.6 (h) x 22.5 (w) cm
Gordon Darling Australia Pacific Print Fund 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Robert Sim
Robert Sim is an Australian stencil artist living and working in Melbourne. I told you so features a distinctly simian John Howard wearing a sandwich board bearing the legend ‘I told you so’. There is a reassuring freedom in poking fun at our leaders, and this gleeful depiction of one of our most recent Prime Ministers as a crazy and sullen half man/half ape is no different. Sim’s caricature looks as if it may whoop or grunt at any second, dragging its knuckles towards the viewer. As apes are humans’ closest neighbours in terms of species, but are still far behind in terms of development, positioning Howard as a member of their community evokes the fear and distaste we feel when confronted by one; so powerful, so similar and yet so different, with motives that are often completely opaque.
Produced in the year that Howard was to suffer a humiliating defeat within his own constituency of Bennelong, the work can be read as a comment on the stubbornness of his attitude, which eventually led to his being ousted. People wearing sandwich boards carrying messages are traditionally on the outskirts of society, loitering at intersections, yelling their prophecies at resolutely ignorant strangers. It would not be an overstatement to say that Howard was unpopular with the younger demographic, and Sim’s work distils the widely distributed idea of Howard as a misguided megalomaniac into one emblematic image.