Academy Award winner and favourite local son Shaun Tan came to FAC with a collection of never before seen large scale paintings, small oil sketches, drawings, preparatory video work and personal sketchbooks. For the first time Shaun Tan: Suburban Odyssey charts the journey of Shaun Tan’s work from carefully observed yet lyrical paintings of Perth’s suburbs to oil studies and drawings that develop characters and narratives which inhabit these vast landscapes. Shaun Tan: Suburban Odyssey highlights the poignant relationship between Tan’s suburban observations, often drawn and painted while on walks, and the place they create for his universally popular book illustrations and short stories. Shaun Tan is the illustrator and author of award-winning books such as The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, Tales of Outer Suburbiaand The Arrival. In 2011 he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for The Lost Thing and the world’s premier prize for children’s literature, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Tan was born in Fremantle in 1974, grew up in Hillarys and now lives and works in Melbourne.
Although I’m often recognised as an illustrator of stories, in private I see myself primarily as a painter of landscapes, particularly the suburban streets in which I grew up and continue to spend most of my time. This world is the bedrock of my imagination – a shoreline of light, space, restless silence – and my suburban paintings of the past twenty years are perhaps more self-defining than anything else I’ve created as a book or film maker. Collecting them together under the roof of Fremantle Arts Centre (a place I visited often in my youth seeking inspiration and direction) is a terrific privilege and opportunity. I hope that exhibition visitors might enjoy the same realisation as I have during my local wanderings with a sketchpad or paint-box: that the most ordinary places can also be the most mysterious. Shaun Tan, 2012.