|Harbour. By; Shaun Tan|
Our first assignment was to read The Arrival; a graphic novel by Australian artist and author Shaun Tan. Tan mainly deals with social, political and historical issues. The Arrival focuses on immigration, and with the use of nothing but pencil drawings Tan tells the story of a man who travels to a new country to find a better life for himself and his family. In this strange land such mundane things as communicating, understanding the functions of every day items, buying tickets, going to the market and knowing what to eat and what not to eat becomes an immense struggle. Luckily the protagonist meats kind people who are willing to aid him in understanding the new culture; often times people who have suffered similar fates to his own.
The structure of this book is very interesting. Tan works in graphite, but he has used digital media in order to add warm or cool tones to the panels, and subtle textures to give the feeling of old photographs. The art in this book has a very realistic approach yet a lot of the subject matter is both whimsical and otherworldly; an aspect that works as a great tool for this kind of storytelling.
Even though the arrival is mainly rooted in the immigration into Australia, the world Shaun Tan builds is one that doesn't exist other than in his storytelling universe, yet all the trials the people in this story faces are very much real. The effect is that Tan has created a hugely universal story; one that, no matter where we come from, we can find something to relate to. Weather it's the alienation, the fear or the welcome support of a kind fellow being, the feeling is well communicated.
Personally I find this graphic novel more moving than many comic books that uses words as a storytelling aid. A big reason behind this lies of course not only in the beauty of the images, but how those images communicate the story; the subject matter, the pacing and the progression of the content. Shaun Tan uses a variety pacing for the panels. Some where he zooms out to show the entire setting of a scene, letting it take up the entire page, and some smaller panels that focuses on an action, shown in longer sequences of moment to moment. In moments of distress, the story moves faster: from action to action or even scene to scene. The lack of words makes for a story that feels more intimate by focusing more on the emotional rather than intellectual experience of the situation.
Shaun Tan has been one of my favorit storytellers for a long time now, and is probably the one that has influenced my love of art the most. If you have yet to discover his wondrous world, I warmly recommend reading any of his works.
|The market. By; Shaun Tan|