Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan Review

Shaun Tan's "The Red Tree" is a sparely scripted book with incredible paintings telling the story of depression and how a person copes with it, from waking up and struggling to get out of bed, to finding the energy to walk to work as well as constantly battling the negative thoughts in your head. 

One of the most haunting images in the book is of an ordinary street scene rendered nightmarish by a giant fish with a gaping mouth and bleeding eyes hovering above the main character. It's a more frightening rendering of the traditional metaphor of depression as the "black dog". 

The artwork is varied and beautiful on every page with Tan's imagination lending itself enormously well to simple lines like "sometimes you just don't know what you are supposed to do" followed by an elaborate stage filled with grotesques and strange creatures surrounding the main character doing unfathomable things dressed up as a magician while playing to a mysterious audience of hats! 

It's a supremely creative book dealing with everyday questions that we never answer. Profundities manifested in paintings. The human condition told as a picture book. 

The book is labelled as "children's"which I feel is a mistake as it would dissuade some adults from picking it up for themselves as it's a book that people of all ages can get something from. 

Shaun Tan has crafted a wonderful book about a difficult subject and it is something to be enjoyed and seen by all. Ultimately uplifting, "The Red Tree" won't necessarily help people with depression but might help people who don't go through it to gain a perspective on it that they might not have had before. 

The book's worth picking up for the sublime paintings alone. “The Red Tree” is a great work by a remarkable artist.

The Red Tree

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