When I first saw Amy Crehore’s The Banana Eater, I was reminded of Henri Rosseau’s surreal paintings of jungles. Crehore’s color scheme is very similar to some of Rosseau’s jungle landscapes. In this abstract work, Crehore spreads her cast of characters across the canvas in an arrangement of shapes that form implied lines that all bring us to the girl eating the banana who is the focal point of the picture.
Using overlapping shapes and atmospheric perspective, Crehore creates depth. Chiaroscuro modeling and contour lines establish mass. Objects that cast a shadow move our eye from left to right leading us first to the girl and then to a big bunch of bananas that seem to be floating mysteriously in front of a tree. Do they grow that way?
The eyes of the monkeys, the exotic red bird and the figure hiding behind the tree; all lead us to the girl. The outline of the panther, the snake, and the monkey with sailor cap frame and penetrate the girl’s torso creating a circle within a circle. The circular pattern is echoed in the blue lagoon and the monkey in the tree holding the red flower. The three red flowers and the exotic red bird suggest another circular pattern. And then, there is the gray rock where one monkey sucks his thumb while the other makes a sucking face and gazes towards the banana in the girl’s mouth.
The obvious theme of this picture is oral gratification. Crehore uses a color scheme of complementary colors, with reds and greens, blues and oranges most prominent. Other prominent colors are the gray fur on the monkeys and the gray rocks. The girl’s brown skin is echoed in the tree and its branches. The color of the fruit in the tree is balanced with the girl’s hair. The hair on the monkey’s heads, yellow with a brown border is echoed in the bananas. The cool tones of the sky and the lagoon are in pleasing contrast to the warm tones found on the shore. I find this picture sensual and humorous.
I was curious about Amy Crehore’s other work and discovered her website and blog. I also had a chance to read an interesting interview with the artist. (See links below.) One thing that I read was that she likes to draw her pictures before she paints them. I was able to find her drawing for The Banana Eater. It’s amazing how close she stayed to her original composition. Even without the beautiful colors, the line drawing still tells the same story. Notice how in the drawing the chiaroscuro is replaced with hatching. Different media requires different choices.