Cai Jin is a Chinese painter born in Tunxi, Anhui Province, China in 1965. She works with oil paint in vibrant colours and her most celebrated work is the Banana Plant series, for which she painted over 400 stylised depictions of banana plants on canvas and found materials to explore the concepts of beauty, fertility, and sexuality.
Cai Jin has gained considerable recognition for her work and has been featured in articles for the ArtDaily and The Brooklyn Rail.
‘’With the way I paint, I never have a plan. I do not think about what I want people to see or what I should paint. I have never done that. I think it comes naturally. I just paint what I want.’’
It was on a trip to her hometown in eastern China that Cai Jin discovered the motif that would be at the centre of her career: the banana plant. Upon the discovery of a wilting plant hidden among weeds, she took two rolls of photographs, which she would carry with her as inspiration for years to come. Since then, she has explored the theme in more than 200 paintings of the plant, mostly in oils with a psychedelic rainbow of pink, purple, blue, and her signature red. Rather than literal subject matter, the banana plant has become and emblem for Cai Jin, though which she explores ideas of beauty, fertility, and sexuality.
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.
Cai Jin’s ‘Banana Plant Series’
While she has primarily produced oils on canvas, Cai Jin has painted on materials such as mattresses, silk quilts, cushions, women’s shoes, bicycle seats, and bath tubs. Her paintings explore vitality and beauty.
In 2008, Cai Jin deviated from her focus on the banana plant and began work on a series of landscape paintings. While the title of the series is Landscape the paintings are lyrical and organic, showing influences of both Western and traditional Chinese sources. These landscapes, which are largely imaginary, are evidence more of Cai Jin’s intuitive creativity than the depiction of an actual countryside. As a result, the paintings are more conceptually based rather than assuming a figurative orientation.
Cai Jin’s ‘Landscape No. 20’
‘’Landscape is not an actual landscape that I can see in reality. It is perhaps a pattern in my mind or a shape that I can feel. (…) In this series, there is space to reveal more than what we see.’’
Cai Jin’s works have been exhibited internationally, including Jinri Art Museum (Beijing), Hannover Messehalle (Germany) and Venice Biennale (Italy).
Her works are in the collections of the National Art Museum of China, Today Art Museum (Beijing), and University Museum of Art Gallery (Hong Kong).