Tough and Tender @ The National Portrait GalleryShare Event on Facebook Share Event on Twitter Share Event on LinkedIn
Tough and Tender at the National Portrait Gallery is a formidable collection of photographs from internationally acclaimed artists and presents not just the complexities of its title but addresses our perception of what it is through these images that show vulnerability, coming of age, intimacy, toughness and cockiness. The dichotomy is not always absolute. The Tough and Tender aspect sometimes visible in one image, but that is in the eye of the beholder and from a photographer’s point of view capturing a single image often presents many aspects of a subject’s personality.
Officially opened by writer Christos Tsiolkas with a succinct and thoughtful speech inspired by his own impressions of the exhibition when he made time to spend time perusing the collection, and making a point to acknowledged not just the international artists but two Australian photographers represented in the exhibition and present for the opening.
One is Canberra born Warwick Baker. A graduate of RMIT, he is a quietly spoken young man with a sensitive touch, respect for his subjects and the ability to find the tough and tender in his photography. Rozalind Drummond from Melbourne, who has recently held artist residencies at secondary schools in the ACT and Victoria, creates groups of images, many integrated with architecture and landscape and the selected eleven photographs are from her work this year.
There are twenty two photographs on loan from the National Gallery of Australia’s Larry Clark collection and it is with these the Tough and Tender is most evident in his young boy hustlers on 42nd Street in New York in 1980. A couple of what we’d call smarty pants kids; cocky, full of front and the gift of the gab. But young, vulnerable and in need of tenderness and love. I wonder if they made it past this phase in their young lives.
But the one that I loved is by Nan Goldin from her series The Ballad of Sexual Dependancy and shows Siobhan in the shower in NYC in 1991. She gaunt by today’s norm, her skin is glistening and the sense of her vulnerability is both raw and beautiful.
Tsiolkas was an inspired choice for an ‘opener’. He’s a charming man, happy to chat about his current success with Barracuda as a television series, his time as a Canberra resident where the former All Bar Nun was a favourite haunt, his mum, much more and how impressed he was with this exhibition.
Tough and Tender continues at the National Portrait Gallery until 16 October. And yes there’s nudity, none gratuitous, in an exhibition curated by Christopher Chapman with a sensitive and scholarly vision.