Beer and bananas were the order of the day at the opening of Shanghai-based Ton Mak’s first solo exhibition. Featuring her collection of recognisable chubby cartoon characters, found around town at hotspots like Madame Mao’s Dowry and EGG café, the eccentric show marks the first art exhibition of its kind for the visual artist.
Having previously worked for Apple's advertising company, Mak would often draw little cartoons and leave them on the desks of colleagues. This was the start of FLABJACKS, a community of chubby characters ‘full of love’.
The works on display at UNDEF/NE are from Mak’s ‘FANANA’ series, a collection of cartoon banana canvas prints and pen artworks (created with the same cheap Taobao pen Mak was first supplied with when she worked at Apple). The display showcases examples of the artist’s exploration of Animism – the belief that our material world embodies supernatural powers of its own. The result is a yellow wonderland full of happy-go-lucky bananas who, in Mak’s words, ‘do what they want, and don’t care what anyone says about them’.
As we already share 50 percent of our DNA with regular old bananas (shout out to primary school science class) it’s not surprising that these little characters with their inquisitive eyes, moles on their faces, fat lips and slightly chubby aesthetic can reflect feelings the audience find it easy to resonate with.