Noxsatvrn is an Indonesian self-taught artist who uses traditional mediums like ink and watercolour to explore gay eroticism and queerness. Being a gay man himself who comes from Indonesia, a country where discrimination against LGBTQ+ people is rife, Noxsatvrn's work represents queer people in his pieces as all sorts of monsters and mythical creatures who are in love.
The figures he depicts do everything from making love to comforting and embracing each other. These pieces normalize queer relationships and emphasize how complex humans are who love, grieve, show affection, and comfort each other, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities.
For example, his piece Sanguine Vernal Fever depicts a gay couple as the pagan’s two halves of the year. The “dark half of the year” which takes place during the winter solstice when the sun is not as powerful, is represented as a man with ashy skin, claws, and horns. Meanwhile, the “light half of the year” which takes place during the summer solstice when the sun is at its most powerful, is represented by a man wearing a flower crown. The two are engaged in a lustful embrace, with the dark half of the year seductively biting the light half of the year’s neck and drawing blood.
This portrayal of queer people as mythical creatures, monsters, and horrors of all sorts has persisted throughout modern history, especially in horror films. In critic Harry M. Benshoff’s book, Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film, he explains the phenomenon by stating, “Monster is to ‘normality’ as homosexual is to heterosexual.” Meaning that portraying queer people as monsters was yet again another way to emphasize their otherness and, in doing so, belittle them.
However, throughout horror film history, queer filmmakers and allies have reclaimed the portrayal of queer monsters and used it instead as a way to celebrate LGBT+ peoples, much like Noxsatvrn is doing now with his artworks.
Noxsatvrn’s choice of portraying queer desire and sexuality in Sanguine Vernal Fever is also especially impactful since not only do representations of queer people appear less than their heterosexual counterparts, but representation of queer sex is an even rarer case to be found in mainstream media and consciousness.
In his piece, The Weeping Garden, Noxsatvrn showcases yet another side of gay relationships, albeit a more emotionally vulnerable one. The piece portrays two winged men, one resembling a demon while the other an angel, locked in a tender embrace. The demon weeps while he holds the angel close to his chest, seemingly comforting him in his scarred and battle-wounded state.
This shows yet another side of queer relationships, a more romantic heartfelt one that again lacks general representation in mainstream media. Critics have noted that though portrayals of queer romance have increased in mainstream media, especially in the form of queer rom-com, there’s still much work to do since these representations are often watered down and made more palatable for a general audience due to commercialization concerns. The queer people in these media are often portrayed as happy go-lucky people whose grief does not last for long and whose sexuality does not happen on camera.
Hence, authentic portrayals of queer relationships in Noxsatvrn’s art pieces, goes a long way in terms of humanizing a mons-tracized community.