Liz Maw, Robert Plant, 2005. Private collection. Image courtesy of the artist.

Until the 17th of July 2011 – City Gallery Wellington

Tender is the Night features work by over thirty artists based in New Zealand and internationally. Works have been generously loaned from public and private collections, including a number of works from artists’ own personal collections.
City Gallery’s new group exhibition Tender is the Night asks us all how it feels to fall in and fall out of love. The show brings together a selection of art works which explore the complex and intense nature of desire, love and the loss of a loved one.

Tender is the Night is a mix-tape of emotions, a gathering of artists’ explorations from the 18th to the 21st centuries, of the sticky and exhilarating mix of longing and consummation, and those intensely felt moments of loss that characterise the evolution and devolution of human relationships.

Everyone has their favourite love songs, movies, or poems that form the subjective soundtrack or tell the story of their lives. Geographically you can chart a town or city by where significant moments have taken place, and each time you pass that site, a memory is triggered. Love can be joyous, messy, and complicated and, as this exhibition reveals, is an incredibly difficult entity to define and to depict.

Within our visual cultures there are themes and scenarios to do with love and relationships returned to by artists again and again. While it may be easy to argue for the universality of such experiences, at the same time the works within Tender is the Night are intensely subjective and personal expressions that reflect the nuances of the context within which they were produced according to specific times, places and cultures.

While courting and romantic partnerships are a key focus for the show, so too are the not always smooth-running dynamics of family relationships, the intense bonds between parent and child, how siblings interact and the ways in which contemporary families are built. Another thread running through the exhibition is that of the loss of a loved one, through relationships breaking up and through death.

Tender is the Night includes work by: Rita Angus, Kushana Bush, Derrick Cherrie, Phil Dadson, George Dawe, Marlene Dumas, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, Eric Gill, Jeffrey Harris, Michael Harrison, Frances Hodgkins, Jesper Just, Katsukawa Shunchō, Utagawa Kunisada, Henry Lamb, Liz Maw, Anne Noble, Catherine Opie, Fiona Pardington, Alan Pearson, Edward Poynter, H. Linley Richardson, Auguste Rodin, David Rosetzky, Ava Seymour, Laurie Simmons, Stanley Spencer, Douglas Stichbury, Suzuki Harunobu, Francis Upritchard, Robin White, Brendon Wilkinson, Erica van Zon and unknown artists/makers.

The title of the exhibition is taken from the 1934 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald of the same name. The novel charts a dysfunctional, yet surprisingly resilient bond between a husband and wife, pressured through infidelity, mental illness and financial crisis. The phrase ‘tender is the night’ also appeared earlier in the well-known John Keats’ 1819 poem Ode to a Nightingale, where the poet explores the fleeting nature of mortal existence. In more recent times British indie-pop group Blur echoed the phrase in their moving love song Tender which was released in 1998.

The exhibition Tender is the Night doesn’t strive to illustrate any of the phrase’s previous uses—rather it takes the repetition of this phrase across time and place, within a range of meaningful contexts, as the inspiration for gathering together a selection of works that explore the human condition. The exhibition will offer visitors a range of experiences from the melancholic and unsettling through to the sentimental, euphoric and the downright lusty.

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