Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. At school he became known as the 'good drawer' which partly compensated for always being the shortest kid in every class. He graduated from the University of Western Australia in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, and currently works full time as a freelance artist and author in Melbourne.
Shaun began drawing and painting images for science fiction and horror stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through surreal, dream-like imagery. Books such as The Rabbits, published by Simply Read Books in 2003; The Lost Thing, Orchard, 2007; The Red Tree, Orchard, 2008; and the acclaimed wordless novel The Arrival, published by Hodder Children’s Books in 2007, have been widely translated throughout Europe, Asia and South America, and enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, and worked as a concept artist for the films Horton Hears a Who and Pixar's WALL-E. He is currently directing a short film with Passion Pictures Australia; his most recently published book in 2009 is Tales from Outer Suburbia, from Templar Publishing.
Shaun says about his own work, ‘Most of my time is currently spent writing and illustrating picture books, which have reached quite a broad readership in Australia and overseas via foreign publication and translation into several languages. They are best described as ‘picture books for older readers’ rather than young children, as they deal with relatively complex visual styles and themes, including colonial imperialism, social apathy, the nature of memory and depression.’
Shaun is seen here in conversation with Shirley Hughes, an ardent fan, at his event and exhibition at the gallery in May 2009