Suburban Odyssey

Yesterday KvV and I visited the Shaun Tan exhibition, ‘Suburban Odyssey’ at the Fremantle Arts Centre (runs until July 15).  Having marveled at the illustrations of the picture books, ‘The Rabbits’ and ‘The Arrival’ in a coffee table sort of attention span, I really appreciated seeing the evolution of his works.  The major works are of suburban landscapes, from early pieces of realism and portraiture to suburbia as magic-realism and then the working sketches of his later work illustrations.

So our fascination with suburbia, have we seen it all before?  Not as Tan manages to capture suburbia.  I found this quote from a love-in, online review by The West Australian, "These are serious paintings of Australian suburbia, bringing to life that which is usually pictured as dull and monotonous.  Many Australian artists celebrate the boredom of the suburban landscape, but Tan is able to breathe magic into the streetscapes of Perth".

I would agree with the sentiment but I feel that the best descriptive word would be his ability to capture a ‘benign’ suburbia.  Is this suburbia in its best version? There are no seething, bleak undertones, think Tim Burton’s ‘Edward Scissor Hands’ or David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’, just a perspective that some of it’s implied rules are strange (homogeneity, 9-5, crows).  Whilst BENIGN doesn’t have the charisma of AMAZING, the intellect of DELIGHTFUL or the nous of CLEVER, it is used in its ability to convey a kind, generous, gentle disposition.  The magic realism of his stick figure series of paintings (definitely worth the short trip) promote the idea that alien landscapes (or objects & creatures as seen in his later works) can be both strange and benign, which is surely if you took this idea further a message of tolerance?  Maybe I have run away with that thought, but to see these layered paintings and different techniques; pencil, gauche, acrylics, pastels and layered cardboard, wood, cloth & plaster, was a nice interlude for a Thursday.  
Teaser pictures below.

exhibition intro
working perspective
layered painting


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