Shaun Tan


Imagination and ” a good drawer” was what defined Shaun Tan as a kid from the Perth suburbs. Another description of Tan’s work is an example of the Australian vernacular

‘at once banal and uncanny, familiar and strange, local and universal, reassuring and scary’.

It is in a spirit of enquiry that has Shaun Tan making sense of  the world. Capturing that balance between what is seen and what is imagined.Questioning the meaning to those ordinary day to day experiences.His well drawn illustrations work as the tool to find a voice for all of us to take a second look at what we take for granted. His monsters in suburbia are perfect examples.

At every step, my concern is to involve the reader by the use of their own imagination, in trying to make sense of the unfinished stories I am presenting them.Illustration is a unique form of story telling expression that is perfect for the task, inviting the readers own imagination to draw upon their reactions in making sense, in their own their and at their their their their pace.

2011 was a good year for Australian illustrator Shaun Tan. He won an academy award for best animated short film which he wrote, directed and that was based on his books The lost thing.Shaun Tan also won the world most prestigious literary award for young adults and children, the Astrid Lindgren memorial Award.

Themes such as depression loneliness colonisation bureaucracy gives another level to his art labeled as simply a books for children. Presenting these themes in a such a whimsy unusual way are a work out for the imagination. They are also a way of balancing the real to the imagined.

What are Shaun Tan’s influences? The book The last thing is full of famous artworks. Others he says are synetics, connecting  ideas as diverse as the way paint runs down a wall , how colours go together and influences such as polish street art. Sketches from essentially unconnected ideas are the beginning of the questioning process. He than asks the question, does this have meaning, what do these ideas have in common?

..small unimportant doodle in a sketchbook, and for me many stories begin this way, quite unexpectedly and without a serious attempt.

Shaun Tan lives in Melbourne









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