Alienation is key to Tan’s oeuvre, which he achieves by inserting fantastical beings into everyday surroundings. The multi-award-winning novel The Arrival (2006), a tribute to his father who emigrated from Malaysia to Australia, is the main focus. Through drawings, sketches and digital prints, viewers witness the evolution of Tan’s touching story about a man who leaves his family in search of a better life for all of them. It’s a wordless, moving memoir of dazzling sepia drawings.
Tan, 35, started out illustrating science fiction and horror stories for the small press, such as the Australian After Dark series for young people. He eventually both illustrated and authored several books including The Red Tree, The Rabbits and his latest, Tales of Outer Suburbia. He is currently directing a short film based on his book The Lost Thing. Illustrations from all of these are represented in Een vreemd land.
Tan’s books are simply gorgeous, inside and out. Both the scope and diversity of his tales and drawings are remarkable, mixing mythical children’s stories with a mature graphic novel style. The melancholy atmosphere of his work creates emotional depth and a kind of bewilderment, drawing the reader into landscapes both bizarre and familiar, filled with enchanting characters and fresh fables.
Tan’s books are accessible to all ages, but the themes are often quite socio-political. The Red Tree (2001), for instance, takes on loneliness and depression faced by a young girl, while Tales of Outer Suburbia explores how average people respond to very un-average occurrences. Tan often comes back to the same question: will you recognise the value of the unknown?
Een vreemd land
Until 15 May
Bampslaan 35, Hasselt