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Cris Volpe

These artworks explore the erotic tension between toughness and tenderness

Featuring work by Charley Sayers and Jesse Glazzard, the new exhibition showcases a culture that exists between the binaries of sex and gender

What do you think of when you hear the words “toughness and tenderness” – an age-old binary, split down lines of gender and sexuality, or maybe something more fluid, two states that we can swing between or embrace all at once? A new exhibition at Bermondsey Project Space aims to shed some light on this dynamic, probing its tensions and complexities.

A collective exhibition of queer artists, Toughness and Tenderness celebrates a culture that is built on contradiction and between binaries, drawing focus to some of its trademark symbols: “Red lips, fluidity, fire, softness, caress, tight, kiss, scratch, cold, leather, pumping, flesh, breeze.”

Opening earlier this week, the show features the likes of Dazed 100 alum Jesse Glazzard, whose work focuses on gender, sex, and class to “fill the gap” in representation they felt growing up, and Charley Dean Sayers, who captured her gender confirmation surgery on her own, candid terms in the recent photo book November 17th.

Elsewhere, Cris Volpe’s photographs of detached torsos and strap-on dildos offer a literal look at how we build up our identities, like donning a suit of armour, and Imogen Cleverley breaks the boundaries down again with a series of fragmented nudes. Others, like Jody Evans and Josiah Moktar, capture intimate scenes ranging from therapy sessions to post-sex beds, while an Annalisa Heyes artwork hangs from the ceiling in a tangle of buckles and leather belts.

The full list of artists featured in Toughness and Tenderness – which spans sculpture, digital art, photography, spoken word, poetry, painting, video, and installations – includes Charley Sayers, Cris Volpe, Hanon, Imogen Cleverley, Jesse Glazzard, Jody Evans, Josiah Moktar, Juliusz Grabianski, Maria Mautino, Maite de Orbe, Jessie Patrick-Hooper, Meg Vaughan, Annalisa Hayes, Eleanor Daly, and Martha Summers.

Toughness and Tenderness is on show at Bermondsey Project Space until February 25.