An interview with Shanghai artist Banana

Together with art collective RunShi (润识), GoEast is exhibiting Banana Wang (王香蕉)’s colorful bulldog paintings. Here we sit down with Banana to ask her about her work.

Jaap: Do you think art should have a higher meaning or purpose?

Banana: Hmmm. I want to put myself in the history books. As for the message, my art doesn’t come with a fixed meaning. It’s open for the viewer to find. It’s not difficult, just happy, that’s all.


J: How did you get to this style?

B: My major in art academy was sculpture, and for one class we went to the Jaanxi province to do pottery. I brought a picture of my dog, and I really liked that photo. I didn’t continue with it through pottery, because I think it’s very limited. I like painting more, experimenting with colors and compositions.

J: Is there something typically Chinese about your work?

B: I’m local Shanghainese but I don’t go to lots of art exhibitions here. If I put elements of my Chinese life in my work then I need to paint something that looks like a photograph. So I don’t think there’s a lot of typical Chinese elements in my work. I try to do something different. I think I have more freedom than other young Chinese-artists. During art education everyone needed to paint like the teacher. I never wanted to do that. I’ve never gone abroad before, but I think the Chinese education, also art education, is about doing what the teacher says. Foreigners usually are more creative and do whatever they want.

J: Is Chinese culture tolerant of artists? Not only academy but also the relationship between parents and family?

B: The condition is strict in China. To be an artist isn’t seen as a proper career. But I guess it’s similar in many countries. What can you do? Just work hard and focus on your goal.

J: Are there any artists who inspire you?

B: I’m not really inspired by other artists. Maybe Van Gogh, that’s the one I like.

J: Your small paintings have notes on the back. What is on the notes?

B: It’s a mixture of instructions and a collection certificate, with some private notes for the buyer. I have a big goal. I want to paint 1000 variations, and then I invite all the collectors to come and do the exhibition— and have a party together.

J: Do you have a message to Chinese learners from GoEast that’ll come to see your work?

B: If you’re in a bad mood, come here and have a happy day!