Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
China, Hong Kong Arts Centre; Australia, Sydney, Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art; Melbourne, Melbourne Arts Festival; Canada, Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery; USA, Eugene, University of Oregon Art Museum; Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Museum of Art; Kansas, Salina Art Center; Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center; San Jose, San Jose Museum of Art, China's New Art, Post-89, 1993-1997, p. 167
China, Macau, Contemporary Art Centre of Macau, FUTUROE Chinese Contemporary Art, 2000, p. 19
Portugal, Lisbon, Culturgest, Galleries 1 and 2, Contemporary Chinese Art, Subversion and Poetry, 2003
Banana Plant Series is the realization of Cai Jin's artistic perseverance. Within a span of twenty years, works in the Banana Plant series created during different periods vary in style and undertone. All of them, however, witnessed the artist's own visceral experience with nature and gradual development of her technical prowess. In the winter of 1990, Cai caught sight of a withering banana tree, whose newly growing trunk was tightly wrapped by lifeless leaves and stems. The sheer contrast between life and death deeply inspired this graduate of from the Central Academy of Fine Arts. The banana tree has since become the crucial nutrient for the growth of Cai Jin's creative journey.
The two works on offer, Banana Plant No. 8 (Lot 873) and Banana Plant No. 18 (Lot 874), were both created at the very early stage of the series. Divergent from Cai's later paintings of red banana plants, these early works are serene, introverted, yet like a germinating seed, bursting with a simultaneously unique and subtly forceful energy. The plants' intricate shapes and forms are depicted in great detail. Some leaves are tender and firm, some dry and beginning to curl, while the older ones are beginning to wilt. At this stage, Cai began to experiment with color. Wielding the same palette of colours, the artist paints the many faces of a banana leaf, the newly born, the dying, or those in between. By enhancing the contrast between background and the highlights, the artist has created a dreamy illusion among the leaves, like the mercurial appearances of negatives being processed in a dark room. The leaves of different ages intertwine, overlap, and occupy the whole canvas space. As if performing the symphony of life and death, the plants incite emotions in the viewer.
If one would view the more recent Banana Plant works metaphorically as an amorous and enticing coquette, then the two early works would be two young princesses, like the moment just before flowers blossom. The red leaves in front of the dark background are the seeds for the imminent wildness and enchantment that eventually overcome the compositions of later works. The otherworldly tension that defines the entirety of Cai Jin's entire Banana Plant series traces its pictorial origins back to these two nascent works made in 1992.
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