Shannon Novak’s Sub Rosa turns our attention to the secrecy and isolation of gay intimacy. Sub Rosa expands beyond the Open Window and Novak’s personal experience into the Gallery’s hallway and bathrooms to reflect upon the experiences of gay men in New Plymouth, both historical and present day.
Paul Brobbel, Kaitakatū Hāmua / Senior Curator
Between June 2018 and March 2019, Shannon Novak surveyed 125 people from the New Plymouth LGBTQI+ community on the question: ‘Is New Plymouth accepting of the LGBTQI+ community?’ Eight of the individuals surveyed were comfortable undertaking a more detailed interview. These are their responses:
Shannon Novak’s (b. 1979, New Plymouth) 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.
The artist blurs the boundaries between public and private through references to New Plymouth cruising sites from the 1990s, specifically public toilets which is where the artist had his first experience of homosexual intimacy. His personal reflections are bolstered by interviews included with the portrait series both onsite and online. The artist is concerned that little has changed in New Plymouth where acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community is low.
Huhua noa atu ka kitea tā Shannon Novak’s (b. 1979, Ngāmotu) whakaaturanga e kīia ana ko Sub Rosa ki ngā taiwhanga o Govett-Brewster, me tana wero i te tū wātea me te noho huna o te tangata i tana hapori. He takahitanga i roto i ngā tau, ā, ka tīmata ki te matapihi e kitea ana mai i te anga o mua o te whare whakairi toi i te huarahi o Kuini Tiriti, ā, ka kitea anō i tētehi kohinga whakaahua i te hōro matua i waenganui o Len Lye, tatū atu ki ngā tohu i ngā wharepaku. Ka whakarehurehutia e te ringa toi te tūmatanui me te huna mā te whakaara i ngā takiwā ka torohia i Ngāmotu i ngā tau 1990, ina rā ko ngā wharepaku te wāhi tuatahi i whai wheako ai te ringa toi ki te whakaipoipo ki tētehi atu tāne anō. Kua wana ake hōna tirohanga ki ngā uiui waihoki ngā whakaahua e iri ana ki te whare, ki te ipurangi hoki. E āwangawanga ana te ringa toi ki te pōturi o te aro mai a ngā tāngata ki te tautoko i te hapori LGBTQI i Ngāmotu.
Pantograph Punch – Francis McWhannell explores Shannon Novak’s queer politics on show at the Govett-Brewster. Read the essay here