"…a lot of the work that anybody does and an artist is actually very personal, very intimate, and very low level. Extremely modest in scale, in fact. I've learnt to trust the simplest of sketches as a way of really finding big ideas."
(shaun tan, from a speech made at the uni of WA in 2011)
the other day i came across this lecture by the magnificently humble shaun tan on the abc website, where he talks for an hour about his illustration career, earliest work (when he was four or five) and his thoughts on the common thread underlying his work, namely identity and outsiderness in foreign landscapes. he talks a lot about growing up in the northen suburbs of perth, about the strange sense of isolation one gets from this city, about the odd beauty he found in its suburban banality. when i met shaun tan a couple of years ago in bologna for the book fair (he signed a book, we talked about perth thunderstorms), i got this feeling of complete familiarity, like i was back home. that's the feeling i get from his work, especially his early paintings of suburbia. when i look at them i can almost hear the overwhelming predominance of crows and magpies and other bird sounds over the quiet inhabitants. i am reminded the blinding contrast of light and shadows on the walks home from school, of the foreignness i felt when i first arrived to australia, as a seven year old. strange how that sense of foreigness has followed me pretty much everywhere i've lived, even all the way back to the place i was born. His work has managed to move me to tears, and in all honesty, not much visual art is able to do that. this is a little high five to him, and to that other city of mine.
i posted this link because it's an amazing talk by an incredible artist and writer, and because it made me think a lot about what i draw and why i draw, about where i came from (not only in terms of place but also in terms of life path), and about the odd sense of beauty that underlies all human experience, and how we choose to represent that. take the time to watch it.
(paintings by shaun tan, image 1: crows fighting behind a supermarket, 1998, image 2: fifth avenue mount lawley, 2004, taken from lovefreo)