Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shaun Tan's "The Singing Bones" Is Coming!

If you've been following the blog for a while, you will know I am in awe of Australian artist Shaun Tan's work and one of his most recent artistic forays delved deep into the world of Grimm's fairy tales, producing beautiful and simple* sculptures for the new Phillip Pullman's translation of Household Tales - but only for the German edition. I bit the bullet and ordered a German copy to refer to while reading the English version I already had. It was money well spent!

I put a rather detailed and image-filled post about the book HERE and another HERE.
I was delighted at the time, to learn that Tan became so enamored of the tales that he continued creating 'tale sculptures' long after the Pullman book was finished.

And now, soon, we will be able to have them all together in a book! (Squee! #sorry #couldntbehelped)

It's due to be released in October in Australia and I have yet to find concrete details of overseas releases. Here is the official description:

The Singing Bones: Inspired by Grimms' Fairy Tales by Shaun Tan 
"Hauntingly beautiful visual vignettes in paper and clay."
In this beautifully presented volume, the essence of seventy-five fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm is wonderfully evoked by Shaun Tan's extraordinary sculptures. Nameless princes, wicked stepsisters, greedy kings, honourable peasants and ruthless witches, tales of love, betrayal, adventure and magical transformation: all inspiration for this stunning gallery of sculptural works.
Introduced by Grimm Tales author Philip Pullman and leading fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes, The Singing Bones breathes new life into some of the world's most beloved fairy tales.'These little figures of clay, with their simplified features, their single attributes, are perfect realisations of the strangeness of the characters they represent.' - Philip Pullman
Don't you love that little fox? It's a musical instrument! Like an ocarina, and meant, I'm sure, to reflect music being played on the bones of one of the characters in the tale "The Singing Bone". (I love that tale and it's related sister fairy tale ballad "The Twa Sisters"!)

I have to admit I went through a phase quite a few years ago (counting back it was perhaps fifteen or more years ago now!) in which I was tired of seeing versions of the Grimm's tales and various illustrations, even when it was the lesser known ones. On the plus side it sent me searching far beyond the range of tales I knew and into a bumbling use of translator programs (and, when I was lucky, people) to search non-English web sites to help me find different tales and discussions, and I was never bored. What I didn't expect though, was to find out more about how the Germans viewed these national (often to them) tales and, in context, about the life and work of the Grimms and the many people they worked with too. I came across a whole different range of artists, both East and West, who had fresh new takes on the Grimm's tales and it quickly revived my love of the Household Tales collection. The more I saw and learned, the more I realized the tales could function as a branching out point to discover many new and wonderful fairy tales, as well as be a touchstone for context while researching.
In recent years I've felt almost spoiled with how much has come to light (and been published) with regard to the Grimm's process, collecting, editing and writing. When the internet took a giant leap into the visual communication age, including using memes and uploading images from obscure texts and out-of-print books being shared on the web, I suddenly felt I was collecting pieces of a story that wasn't so distant and isolated from my contemporary experience, but ongoing and still affecting the world today.** Almost*** every major tale collection around the world and through history either was influenced by the work of the Brothers Grimm or they themselves were influenced by it. The threads, though sometimes thin, are stronger than I first realized and I've found I can no longer be blasé about the Grimms' tales and work.

To top that, just in the last year or so, we've had Philip Pullman's fresh translation of the popular edition of Household Tales, Jack Zipe's wonderful translation of the Grimm's First Edition (with Andrea Dezso's gorgeous silhouettes, which you can see a post on HERE) and Kate Forsyth's The Wild Girl historical novel, which, though fiction, helps stitch together a lot of context and provides yet another fresh look at the tales themselves, both in a societal context and in a personal one (there will be more on this book very soon!).

Tan's sculptures are so very different from much of the work that's ever been done to represent and illustrate the Grimm's tales. In my linked posts, they details how uncomfortable Tan initially was in trying to illustrated the tales, and then he experimented with folk art-like sculpture. The interesting thing about simplicity is it's very hard to capture the essence of something so elegantly, yet despite being fairly new to the medium of clay and paper***, Tan has created a superb collection that clearly came out of the Grimm tales.

* Simple is so very difficult to do!
** In case you hadn't guessed, this was an inspiration to follow the threads of fairy tale news happening in our day-to-day, and ta-da! Once Upon A Blog.. daily fairy tale news was born.
*** While this isn't true of every collection available, it's astonishing to see how many have at least a thread connecting them to the Grimm's work in some way - either back in time or forward in influencing them.
**** Tan also used string, wax, shoe polish, sand, paint, wire, anything that would support his sculpture. His Hansel & Gretel piece even has cake decorations.

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