Message from Shaun Tan

Message from Shaun Tan

At opening of the exhibition Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film on the evening of Friday 6 May 2016 our Guest Speaker Sophie Masson, Author and Chair of the New England Writers Centre passed on these wonderful words from Shaun Tan…

It’s wonderful to see The Lost Thing reach the New England Regional Art Museum in Armidale, extending its life beyond the urban centre of ACMI where it originally opened. And rightly so, because while I don’t have much comment to add to what you see on show – it’s a pretty comprehensive overview of the long process involved in making this so-called ‘short film’ – it is worth reminding visitors that the story of The Lost Thing has very humble origins. It’s something that I doodled one day on my share-house kitchen table, in between other projects I thought at the time were far more important, including the search for a paying job.

I didn’t think about it much at first, but kept coming back to it again and again, thinking maybe there is something in this ludicrously simple story about a lost something something, maybe it would make a good book and at least sell a few copies, or at the very very least, create the illusion of employment over a long, hot West Australian summer. The story just made some kind of interesting sense, and reflected something truthful of what it felt like to grow up in far-flung suburban Perth, not really knowing what I should be doing with my life. A common enough feeling I’m sure! But I could never anticipate that this story would later engage so many other imaginations, or lead to such a intricate process as the creation of an animated film, involving so many other people. And a protracted process too! Can you believe  the first ever developmental tests were delivered in VHS tape? Fortunately technology caught up with us, and a project conceived in 2001 was finally delivered in 2010, and now six years on is a travelling exhibition, one that looks deceptively effortless.

 I often think about how very occasional exhibitions I saw in suburban Perth had a big influence on my decision to be an artist, and often wonder what young people especially make of an exhibition like this one. I very much hope that it inspires other young doodlers and writers to follow their weird inclinations. I would love to think that there is a quiet teenager in a regional area like Armidale who wanders through, takes some notes, thinks about it for years to come and offers something far more startling a decade or so later. I hope so, since big ideas always seem to come from small places. To everyone who visits, thank you very much for supporting our work with your curiosity, and do remember to pay attention to all the lost things in your own life.

Shaun Tan



Shaun Tan, Artist and Academy Award ® -winning filmmaker, in gallery at ACMI Photograph byMark Gambino