The view from outside

Illustration from Shaun Tan's upcoming book Rules of Summer.

Illustration from Shaun Tan’s upcoming book Rules of Summer.

Interesting article on Shaun Tan and his artistry by Peter Robb:

It took a good fortnight of negotiation before I set foot in Shaun Tan’s studio. Long-distance dealings were punctuated by silences that raised their own questions. At one point, I learnt the studio was packed up, and not viewable for that reason. Given that Shaun Tan draws and paints in various media, writes, sculpts, photographs and also transforms his own words and images from book to animated film, I wondered what kind of space could house all these activities, and wondered what the space might tell me. How could it be “packed up”?

Shaun Tan won an Oscar in 2011 for co-directing the animated short film of his own book The Lost Thing. The usual pictures of record from Oscar night show him dressed in a dinner jacket, holding the gold and blinking under the lights. He looks happy, but less amazed or delighted or triumphant than most so photographed over the years. The look on his face is entirely the one you see any day of the week, the one I at last encounter in Melbourne. It’s polite, curious, reflective and sometimes glinting with un-uttered thoughts. Not carried away at all. The appearance is intellectual, almost clerical. The black eyes are bright behind oval rimless lenses, and he moves with a pale and sedentary air. The clothes are black on near black. I have seen figures like this, looking a bit lost around the edges of the Vatican in Rome.

The Tan home is a tiny unrestored dark-brick Federation house in a little curved street in Brunswick, with most of the front taken up by large, bright fern-like plants. The plants mean the studio, the first room on the right as you step inside, is in permanent shadow, which the artist mildly admits is a bit of a problem when he’s painting. The room’s a tiny cabin of dark stained wood. Directly opposite in the other front room I glimpse a paint-stained mattress, some canvas frames and a lot of unidentifiable objects stacked on their side in another tiny space. This is the “packed up” part.

Full article in Sydney Moring Herald here.

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