Context Miami: "Banana Man" Artist Lin Shih-Yung Knows the Banana Peel is the True Window to the Soul

Look closely and you'll notice something unusual in this painting. That's right! There's a disembodied hand copping a feel of that banana person's right buttock.
Look closely and you'll notice something unusual in this painting. That's right! There's a disembodied hand copping a feel of that banana person's right buttock.

For those of us with bananas for heads, the closest we've come to artistic representations of ourselves has been still lifes of fruit bowls and and the minstrel show that is Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

Things are beginning to change thanks to the work of Lin Shih-Yung.

"He is very popular in Taiwan with his Banana Men," according to Ileana Hsu of Da Xiang Art Space, which is showing several of his paintings at the CONTEXT art fair in Midtown.

Thus spake the banana: Glub glub glub!
Thus spake the banana: Glub glub glub!

"The banana is kind of the representative fruit of Taiwan," she continues. "We sold many bananas to other countries and it was one of the first ways we became a country with money."

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In the backgrounds of the paintings, Lin tends to paint an obsolete skyline of his hometown, Miaoli.

"Many old buildings have been torn down and new buildings have replaced them," Hsu says. "He wanted to recreate the city he saw when he was young. The paintings are inspired by the artist's childhood."

The paintings represent an intersection of modernity and tradition. Visually, this is represented by the technological advances of rail travel and the old-fashioned charms of bubbling pools of viscous black fluid.

"He grew up in a traditional family. They were farmers but his childhood was not so happy. You can see that in the colors.

"He chose to use bananas because people have eyes, noses and mouths and those give identities. He wants us to focus on the atmosphere, not think, 'Who is she? Who is he?' So he put a banana on them."

If Lin's practice was green when he began painting bananas about eight years ago, it has now ripened to a vibrant yellow with just a speckling of black.

"He used to draw only a banana," Hsu says. "Then he made them different sexes. It was step by step."

To see more work by Lin Shih-Yung, visit DaXiang.com.tw. For more information about CONTEXT, go to ContextArtMiami.com

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