Articles

Art & Culture

Jul 1, 2016

Going Bananas!

We all know fruit is good for us, but for artist Inazuma Akai, bananas are more
than just a good source of potassium – they are a medium for his art.

As an artist, I get my inspiration from many places but funnily enough, I get a lot of my inspiration while at the supermarket. Eight years ago, I experimented with carving the image of Buddha onto a banana and uploaded the picture onto my blog. I’ve always enjoyed drawing, creating sculptures, and cooking, and would regularly upload pictures of my artwork on the blog. The readers of my blog were very receptive towards using bananas as a medium. Since then, I’ve created more than 4,500 pieces of banana art.”

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The Process

To me, it’s not so important where the bananas are from – I use bananas from everywhere, from Ecuador to the Philippines. What’s more important is how mature the bananas are. If it’s overripe, it’ll be too soft to do any carvings and if it’s unripe, it’ll be too hard. The texture has to be just right. The shape of the banana also matters – to me, I’m not creating carvings but rather, I’m coaxing out particular designs from within the fruit.
It usually takes me 10 to 15 minutes to complete a piece of banana art. I believe part of my art involves eating the banana so I’ll usually try to photograph the artwork within an hour before it oxidises and turns brown. After I’ve taken the requisite photo, I’ll eat the banana. That’s another one of the reasons why I choose to use bananas as a medium – because it’s easy to eat and is available all year round. Previously, I tried creating art with cucumbers and radishes, but these are hard to eat all the time. When I was preparing my book on banana art, I ate over 300 bananas in one month!

People’s Reactions To “Banana Art”

When I first started experimenting with banana art, there were some people who would chide me and tell me not to play with food. There were also some people who were thrown off by the life-like carvings, but overall, the general response has been very positive. Many people have told me they are impressed by the complexity and intricacy of each design. Some of the more challenging designs I’ve created include the Tokyo Skytree, faux sushi (using a mixture of jam and chocolate sauce to achieve a realistic look), as well as a range of Star Wars characters.
Not many people know this, but art is not actually my full-time job. I run an izakaya in Chiba Prefecture. Sometimes, I like to include banana art in the yakitori – it looks so realistic that most customers won’t realise it isn’t yakitori until they bite into it. We usually have a good laugh about it when they discover it’s actually banana art.”

(TEXT  VANESSA TAI PHOTOGRAPHY ©Inazuma Akai,  J.ISHIKAWA Corp.)

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Find out more about Inazuma Akai and his work by visiting
http://ameblo.jp/akaiotoufu
*Website is in Japanese