Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 2019
Sub Rosa (under the rose)
Occupies various spaces at the Govett-Brewster, challenging the idea of openness and safety within one’s own community. Each intervention is a progression through time, starting with the Open Window space on the gallery’s Queen Street front, and moving through a series of portraits in the Len Lye Centre hallway, and toilet signage.
New Zealand artist Shannon Novak explores contemporary issues in the LGBTQI+ community. He creates compositions for objects, locations, and people much as musicians might compose for/about places, persons, or experiences with emotional resonance for them.
Shannon Novak, Terry Parkes, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 300 x 400 mm Courtesy of the Artist Being gay in the 90’s in New Plymouth was very difficult because it was all hush-hush, so I just tried to live as “normal” a life as I could.
Shannon Novak, Michael, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 300 x 400 mm Courtesy of the Artist ...I was desperate for anything I could relate to. Once the youth group came along, I ended up with a decent bunch of people I could finally feel like I could be myself with. Most of my friends at school were ok with me being gay I think, but I know they got shit for it too, and eventually, I drifted apart from nearly all my straight school friends.
Shannon Novak, Cameron S. Curd, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 300 x 400 mm Courtesy of the Artist The rise and rise of hate crimes around the world hasn’t reached New Plymouth yet from what I know, but with the way things are in the world at present, I wouldn’t be surprised to read about it in the paper.
Shannon Novak, Anonymous, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 375 x 400 mm Courtesy of the Artist As we mainstreamed after 1986, there were a lot of psychology experts and health professionals pushed out into our society to manage gayness, mainly by splitting the groups into age stratifications. This effectively removed the young men coming out from gaining any wisdom from the general gay community.
Shannon Novak, Tyler Ryan, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 300 x 400 mm Courtesy of the Artist Present Day, with my peers and my work place, I feel safe being gay, however, I would still not hold my partners hand while walking down the street. Even though a lot has changed, and the world has moved on quite a bit, I feel that the same stigma is still here as it’s still a rural place. I work in the rural sector and I never refer to my partner as he/him.
Shannon Novak, Max, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 225 x 300 mm Courtesy of the Artist I left Taranaki as I couldn’t be who I was and be around “like” people. I needed a place that allowed me to live without fear. The fear was not directly related to New Plymouth though, it was more generalised about being discovered, ridiculed, embarrassed, and ostracised, which I am sure would have been the case in many parts of New Zealand.
Shannon Novak, Damien Hegley, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 225 x 300 mm Courtesy of the Artist Generally, I believe that society is now accepting, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re from New Plymouth or Auckland. However, I think there’s still the struggle of people to meet others and that there are few non-sexual avenues for people to feel included or part of a community.
Shannon Novak, Gazza, 2019 acrylic and ink on board 225 x 300 mm Courtesy of the Artist To be gay in New Plymouth in the 90’s was like being in a time warp from the 70’s. Due to the high population of fringe religions, it was difficult. There were pockets of the population that were accepting that appeared not to have the religious hang-ups and then there were those who were ashamed as to what others may think.