Wednesday, 20 July 2016

White cat and bird, oil 20 x 15cm


  1. Hello, Mr. Tan!

    I asked you a while ago about your early career illustrations jobs, remember me? :) I just finished my graduate thesis on your picturebooks, and I'd like to share its abstract with you, in case you might be interested! Also, I'd like to quote part of my acknowledgements: "To Shaun Tan, whose work and worldview were the prime motivation for this research and for his humbleness and empathy on answering one of his greatest admirers". Thanks for being so selfless and putting yourself out there so sincerely and not losing hope on finding beauty in the world around us.

    This graduate thesis aims to identify the artistic devices and their relations on Shaun Tan's picturebooks which are directed to cause estrangement. Thus, by drawing theoretical and methodological relations with Literature and Art, we propose to expand research on the concept of estrangement within the field of Design, broadening its scope on the collaboration of discussions regarding artistic devices in general. Besides, it supports picturebooks studies by an aesthetic approach and conveying autonomy as a mode of pictorial and narrative experimentations for illustrators, artists and authors. To answer our research problem, on the first chapter, we aim to particularize the meaning of estrangement by establishing a genealogy of concepts and authors related to the cognitive phenomenon of estranging. Next, we delve into the main modern aesthetic currents and their concepts: alienation, the uncanny and ostranenie. Specifically, we look over Viktor Shklovsky's recent readings that emphasize the concept's ethical and political implications as opposed to prevailing structuralist readings up to the end of the 20th century. Then, we begin the second chapter by discussing the concept of medium and follow Russian Formalism's meaning in order to argue for the idea that picturebooks and comics are categories that operate according to the parameters of graphic narratives. Then, we establish the properties of the medium aiming to expound their devices on the analyses. On the third chapter, we present Shaun Tan in order to consider the ways that his works relate life and art. Through his artistic path, we understand the circumstances and personal motivations, and by exploring his pictorial techniques and his imagery, we visualize his aesthetic motivations that develop images that comprehend worldviews. At last, we analyze three picturebooks according to their relations between picture and text: The Red Tree (2001), The Arrival, (2006) and Tales from Outer Suburbia (2008). Underlying their specificities, Shaun Tan's picturebooks display devices of estrangement for they are able to realize the fantastic and estrange the mundane, allowing the reader to "trans-live" the experience through the poetic perception unlocked by the work of art.

    Keywords: Estrangement, Russian Formalism, picturebooks, medium, aesthetics

    Best regards from your huge fan from a land far far away!

    1. Let me yet mention: on analyzing The Red Tree, I discuss Fernando Pessoa's sensacionism to highlight the notion that the book emphasizes sensations rather than cronological order. On The Arrival, I discuss some versions of the image of the immigrant as an aesthetic stance towards the work, namely, the "rootless", the outsider and the exiled, arguing that the outsider is able to negotiate and come to terms with his new country – which is also a mythical narrative about being at home at oneself. At last, on Tales of Outer Suburbia, I defend that the way you portray cityscapes is very much like Kafka faces the "dead metaphors" that run through the language. On each of these cases, I then look for the artistic devices present on the artrology (from comic studies), the word-image relation (from picturebook studies, namely the iconotext) and lastly the pictorial order (from Baxandall).

      I hope you'd like these relations I have established between your picturebooks and other art forms :)

    2. Hi Eduardo, thanks, I like these relations very much, thoughtful parallels. Congrats on finishing your thesis! No small feat I know from by own experience, which is why I was glad to help. I particularly like the observation of the arrival as a mythical personal journey of self discovery, not just immigration (which is a metaphor for all lived experience). All the best with assessment!