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Tamagawadai Residency Part 1

Black and white film photo: Japanese man rides past on bicycle as blurry figure

In June 2019, we took the opportunity to create in Japan for a self initiated 5 week art residency in Tamagawadai, a small suburb south of Shibuya.

We relive our experiences from Tamagawadai in the folders of film rolls that we revisit. Constantly drawn back to the panning sounds of the city alive, the presence of people in daily commute and the constant view of the city with eyes of a director on set as each cameo walks on by into a secluded bar that reeks the smell of cigarettes, high ball whiskey and the crackling of a new record on its way.

This was a strange time to be in Tokyo, the brewing feeling of two realities being connected seamlessly.

We stayed five minutes away from Yōga station, in the suburb Tamagawadai. Fire stations, a very quiet newly opened cafe and a buzzing dance studio alive at night, bringing together middle aged women dancing the Hula.


A rainy night in Sangenjaya led us to the need for shelter and a drink. Walking past the quiet street, with shop keepers closing up shop, we spotted a glowing light from a small bar with the words Uncle Tom's in the Mistral typeface. With a soft spot and lingering memories with this typeface, we walked in.

Maroon poster by ar–chive with continuous line drawing of bartender and hand-written 'JAZZ'.

Coltrane played through the speakers of this shoebox-sized bar. Taking the left hand side of the bar, we sat down, ordering a highball and whisky on the rocks. The bartender would greet us, bringing small plates of nuts and edamame. The bar was dim and quiet, with only the comforting sound of My Favourite Things and the light chatter of locals three stools from the right of us.

Ange took out her moleskine and began to draw. Her drawings replicated the atmosphere presented to us both. Long, lingering continuous lines with no destination but the shapes that would form from subconscious thinking. The practice of the absence of thought, yet completely immersed in the environment.


"With the intention to create, we set up our days in routine. Moving from one destination to another with no cemented path, only the streets atmosphere as a guide for our curiosities".
Sketchbook page: Sketch of John Coltrane album cover with black line squiggles on page.
Black continuous line and blind drawing of Japanese bartender
Sketchbook page: wavy lines, hand with cigarette, continuous line drawing of whiskey bottle

We found ourselves picking a destination on Google maps, taking our time to absorb all that each city had to offer. From Nihonbashi's famous tempura restaurant to the Le Corbusier museum in Ebisu. Each destination followed the same routine.

Film Photography: Tokyo street crossing, a security guard has his left hand out directing traffic
Film Photography: Corporate Tokyo - Two suited men stand again the bushes on their phones while another group walk by

Our last few trips to Ebisu were spent at Kapital, tabi hunting and people watching. Routinely, there is always so much to take in when you are in a city with a newly discovered unfamiliar street, a wrong turn or an entrance to a hidden treasure.

Black and white film photography: A chair with an imprint of a human bum on the sidewalk outside shop stall
Black and white film photography - lounge chair from Le Corbusier exhibition

We found our way to the MA2 Gallery's exhibition of Le Corbusier. A collection supported by Galerie Eric Mouchet.

Two chairs and table placed in front of a whole wall of books
Two colourful Le Corbusier books on a grey table titled "Le Modulor" and "Modulor 2"

Amongst his artworks was an upper level studio that consisted of a library of books, floor plans, designed furniture pieces and the documentation of collaborations between Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret.

Le corbusier red book titled "RV 172" wrapped in plastic
Page from book: colourful block illustration with fine lines

Moving onto the next gallery on the list was the Yayaoi Kusama Museum with an entry fee of ¥1100, in the famous town of Waseda. If you have read books by Haruki Murakami, Waseda would be a recurring location that he continued to refer to.

We were fortunate to view 'Here, Another Night Comes From Trillions Of Light Years Away: Eternal Infinity '. A series of paintings that neither had a beginning or end. The exhibition showcased her 'Infinity Net ' series that showcased her latest painting series 'My Eternal Soul ' accompanied by documentation and photographs of the process behind this series. It was incredible to view such a wide range of work, with a trajectory that included a ladder installation piece resembling one's transcendence to the eternal space.

On the top floor of the museum sat a stainless steel pumpkin sculpture. The sculpture forms that are famous to Yayoi Kusama's name. Looking into the sculpture was a joy. It created new perspectives to be seen, created by the sky light that passed through, as well as the kind of energy it brought for the remainder of our residency.

Angela and Rowland in the Yayoi Kusama Museum elevator surrounded by red circles
Angela and Rowland as a reflection in Yayoi Kusuma's pumpkin sculpture

Next stop: Tokyo's TDC (Type Director's Club) exhibition at the ggg (ginza graphic gallery), a notable haven for all designers and typographers. To capture the essence of the evolving design and advertising practice in Japan, The Tokyo TDC collection is a must explore spot.

We found ourselves nestled in this gallery for hours in the day, away from the busy atmosphere typical of Ginza.

The kind of images I would search on blogs and pinterest, only to find them stashed away in the historical issues of TDC's catalogue. And In print too!

Surreal triangle and octagon graphic on red page
Page from Type Director's club book - colour squares with black kanji in each
Neon and black kanji typography poster

Going back through these photos, it is notable to reflect on where we find our motivations, all that we consume on our travels that lead to the production of new ideas for exhibitions, personal work and collaborations with clients. Tokyo stays consistent in being a vibrant city. It all depends on where you intend to look, how much time you have and the intention of each interaction.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Tamagawadai Residency, as we continue to look into our archives of film and the stories each capture holds.


Got an idea? We'd love to hear from you.

A taste of Japan in Marrickville


Drawings and Photography by Angela Tam Poster by ar–chive

Written by Rowland Reyes Martinez




A compilation of our curiosities.

Thank you!

ar–chive would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Country on which our studio stands, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

© ar–chive 2021. All Rights Reserved.


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