Having a Tan-tastic time in Fremantle
Shaun Tan in front of Endgame, 1998, in the main gallery at Fremantle Arts Centre. Picture: Matthew Saville.

The "everyday magic" of Shaun Tan has been casting a spell at the Fremantle Arts Centre, which is experiencing record attendances for the Oscar-winner's Suburban Odyssey exhibition.

Tan's paintings of suburban Perth, where he lived until a few years ago, have attracted nearly 16,000 people and, with 10 days still to run, surpassed attendances for the 2011 Home Open and 2008 Bon Scott Project exhibitions.

"The feedback has been fantastic," Tan said after visiting the gallery last week.

"And it's been particularly great to hear visitors talking about the strange atmosphere in the paintings and drawings as 'accurate', relating to their own experience of Perth suburbia. It's the recognition of a kind of everyday magic under the surface that we all know intuitively without necessarily having words for it.

"Interestingly, this is also something I can appreciate more clearly by seeing all the work together, coherently presented in this careful way - an opportunity to step back and look at what I've been doing so far, quite a rare privilege."

Tan was born in Fremantle in 1974 and grew up in Hillarys. Now based in Melbourne, his short film of his picture book, The Lost Thing, won an Academy Award last year but he still describes himself as a painter who fell into illustration, book publishing and filmmaking.

The exhibition, at a venue Tan often visited in his youth to seek inspiration and direction, includes some large early paintings created in his 20s, video storyboards, personal diaries and recent small works used as starting points for his illustrations.

Shaun Tan: Suburban Odyssey runs daily at the Fremantle Arts Centre until July 15.

The West Australian

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