The Red Tree is Shaun Tan’s way to play with experimental narrative: the idea of a book without a story. A tale that has no story in terms of narration, but has an incredible strength. A sequence of beautiful paintings that create imaginary landscapes; few words that appear here and there; a tiny red leaf that plays hide and seek in each page; the silent figure of a little girl at the center of each one.
The Red Tree is a picture book that talks about human emotions.
“I’d been increasingly aware that illustration is a powerful way of expressing of feeling as well as ideas, partly because it is outside of verbal language, as many emotions can be hard to articulate in words. I thought it would therefore be interesting to produce an illustrated book that is all about feelings, unframed any storyline context, in some sense going ‘directly to the source’.”
Since there’s no correct page order we can explore the book admiring the beautiful illustrations -a dark feeling that arise in such an unexpected delicate way- deciding by ourselves how to read it. The Red Tree is a cross-cultural book that has been translated in many languages; the experience of emotions it’s personal and subjective, and goes beyond cultural boundaries.
“Originally I was planning to paint pictures about a range of emotions; fear, joy, sadness, amazement and so on. But the more I worked on this, the more I found the negative emotions – particularly feelings of loneliness and depression – were just much more interesting from both a personal and artistic point of view.”
What it seeks to remind us is that bad feelings are inevitable. But even in the toughest times a scrap of hope will stay with us; and in the end it will bloom in a beautiful red tree.
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