Monday, 14 September 2009

The Arrival of Shaun Tan

My first encounter with Shaun Tan's work was while I was still working at that bookstore. The Arrival had just been translated into Dutch and was eying me up from across the sales floor. It looked simply gorgeous: a hardback that was made to look like an old and tattered book with beautiful details and ethereal dreamlike drawings. Inside you find a magical and touching tale about a man who leaves his family behind in search of a new land and a better life for all of them. This new land turns out to be a strange yet comforting place where nothing is as it seems. It is filled with odd little creatures and beautiful buildings.

The story is told without words and depends solely on the incredible talent of Tan who was able to create a moving memoir using dazzling sepia drawings. He worked on this book for five years, making The Arrival his own personal tribute to his father who emigrated from Malaysia to Australia. The Arrival went on to win numerous prizes making Shaun Tan a force to be reckoned with.

But who is this Shaun Tan exactly? Tan is an Australian illustrator who at an early age got bitten by the science fiction bug. Most of his works features strange yet adorable alien beings and surreal places. He truly has a knack of creating his own worlds. He started illustrating science fiction and horror stories from the small press but eventually became a freelance illustrator and author of several sublime books. He even worked as a concept artist on films such as Horton hears a Who and WALL-E. His books may seem accessible to all ages due to their lack of text and colorful content, but the themes he subtly intertwines with the exterior excellence are often quite socio-political. He is currently directing a short film.

I have to admit, that this is the first "graphic novel" that has been able to move me solely based on illustration. Tan's work truly is art. And in February he'll have his first Belgian show in Hasselt!

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