Interview by DAPHNE LEE
MOST people tend to associate picture books with simple stories, illustrated with simple, brightly coloured pictures. Of course, those with a more intimate knowledge of this medium of storytelling know that there is more to picture books than just pretty pictures that simply offer a visual description of a straightforward, basic text.
Picture books may deal with complex and difficult themes and subject matter, and this may be reflected in either the text or the art, or both.
Tan's art is striking and detailed, rather surreal in content and style. The richly tinted, deeply unsettling images in The Red Tree manage to convey the idea of that small glimmer of hope that keeps many people going through the worst of times.
Tales from Outer Suburbia is a collection of 15 short ... I hesitate to even call them stories. Some seem like fragments that have no beginning or end. Most tantalise the reader, offering glimpses into strange worlds or strange views of this world.
Tan's father hails from Ipoh, Perak, and met his Australian wife when he was an engineering student in an Australian university. Tan was born in Perth and visited Malaysia when he was a boy but doesn't remember much of it.
Apart from writing and painting, he has worked as a theatre designer, and did concept art for the films Horton Hears a Who and Pixar's WALL-E.