Nature morte
Giovanni Intra


Giovanni Intra
Nature morte
Production date:
Accession No:
1600 x 1600 x 50mm
mixed media on foamcore, sandblasted glass, in wooden frame.

Collection Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth. Purchased from the Monica Brewster Bequest in 1992.

Giovanni Intra was a rising star of the New Zealand art world who, prior to his tragic and untimely death in 2002, made a lasting impact in local and international art circles. Intra was a prolific writer, a founder of Teststrip gallery in Auckland and China Art Objects gallery in Los Angeles, and an edgy and thoughtful artist who was a key member of Auckland’s art scene in the 1990s.

Intra’s Nature Morte draws inspiration from a trip the artist made to India in 1989, where he became fascinated with wayside shrines. A museum-style, wall-mounted display case containing an array of snipped, pinned and strung together trinkets and votive objects, Nature Morte combines religious and sexual fetishism with the aesthetic of institutional display. An accumulation of articles of clothing, bits of lace, stylised wax genitals, small images of artworks, rivets and twists of foil, Intra’s work mixes references to Hinduism, Christianity and punk in a rich stew of art, religion and idolatry. This potent concoction is transgressively heterogeneous. It refuses to bestow primacy or singularity on any one cult, throwing them all in the pot together.

Intra’s manic homemade shrine is enclosed in a cumbersome frame, with the title of the work actually etched into the glass front, blocking a clear view of the contents. ‘Nature morte’ is a French term, literally meaning ‘nature dead’, which is commonly used to describe the genre of still life in painting. Intra’s lively and tactile accumulation of fetishes is sealed behind glass, preserved and memorialised. Here, museum becomes mausoleum. Intra creates an opposition between the chaotic cross-pollination of living cultures and an image of the museum as a dusty repository of glass-cased relics. However, Nature Morte also reminds us that museums and art galleries, in their fetishistic reverence of objects, are also a sort of shrine.