Shaun Tan is an Australian artist and writer. He is, in fact, one of my favourite artists, hence why I had to include him and his work in my spotlight series – in which I highlight my favourite things from the bookish world.
Tan’s work often sits on the boundary between this world and the fantastical, with elements of nature, technology and fairy tales serving as clear inspiration. He writes and illustrates original works, serves as an illustrator and cover designer for others, and also crafts ‘silent graphic novels’, which are stories told entirely through pictures, with no words whatsoever.
In his art, Tan creates ethereal worlds, populated by captivating scenery and dreamlike creatures, but often uses these seemingly bizarre creations to make commentary on contemporary, real world issues (like The Arrival focussing on the immigrant experience, and The Red Tree exploring the feeling of depression). As such, I think he will appeal to those who enjoy surrealist art, but like stories that retain a grounding in our own world.
He works in a number of different mediums, and has even adapted his art into an Academy Award winning short film. He is also a skilled sculptor. One of my favourites amongst his books, in fact, is The Singing Bones, which comprises a series of sculptures depicting tableaus of classic tales and characters from the works of the Brothers Grimm.
As with any artist, there’s not much else that needs to be said, other than to let his work speak for itself.