• Stephen Phillips, Tedi Bills, Diane Morris, Jody Barnett and Diana O'Neil

    Stephen Phillips, Tedi Bills, Diane Morris, Jody Barnett and Diana O'Neil

  • Trent 2016 from the series by Warwick Baker

    Trent 2016 from the series by Warwick Baker

  • Siobhan in the shower New York City 1991 by Nan Goldin

    Siobhan in the shower New York City 1991 by Nan Goldin

  • Helen Nugent and Christos Tsiolkas

    Helen Nugent and Christos Tsiolkas

  • Writer Chrstos Tsiolkas who opened the NPG Exhibition Tough and Tender

    Writer Chrstos Tsiolkas who opened the NPG Exhibition Tough and Tender

  • NPG Director Angus Trumble

    NPG Director Angus Trumble

  • Artist Rozalind Drummond and Andrew Montana

    Artist Rozalind Drummond and Andrew Montana

  • Taryn Crick and Karen Vickery

    Taryn Crick and Karen Vickery

  • Jared Davis, Laura Englert and Michael Englert

    Jared Davis, Laura Englert and Michael Englert

  • Fiona Glover, artist Warwick Baker and Beatrice Thompson

    Fiona Glover, artist Warwick Baker and Beatrice Thompson

  • Greg Masters and Michael Masters

    Greg Masters and Michael Masters

  • Bob and Lindy Ross

    Bob and Lindy Ross

  • Curator Christopher Chapman and writer Christos Tsiolkas

    Curator Christopher Chapman and writer Christos Tsiolkas

Tough and Tender @ The National Portrait Gallery

14 July 2016

 

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.       

 

 

   

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