The Tokyo Underground: Drawings, Notes & Nostalgia from the Underground

Recently I have working on revamping archive Tokyo Underground passenger drawings. When I say ‘revamping’ I don’t mean improving, I mean reconstructing as to redesign overall appearance in order to portray a troubled state of mind or a moment of anxiety. I felt a wave of nostalgia leafing through old sketchbooks especially reading my often turbulent thoughts scribbled on the back of some sketches. And even today, after another hectic term, hectic surroundings, hectic frame of mind, I always say to myself, ‘never again’ but always return, always.

The context: Being inside a congested train during the rush hour can be a frightening experience if you’re not used to the daily crush. The close proximity among commuters can be unnerving as passengers are tightly pushed against each other. Here, my aim was to pursue this extremity visually. Over the years I have tried to capture these moments on film during the rush hour on the Tokyo Underground. However, I’ve usually been disappointed and as a result, discarded the film. Using my drawings, I’ve been experimenting from another angle.

Stage 1: ‘Distortion & Abstraction’ Using selected train passenger drawings, the aim is to create evocation through distortion and exaggeration thus contriving the image to suit my purpose.

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Stage 2: The images are torn, fragmented and overlapping in various juxtapositions. ‘Intensify Congestion’ From experience, the uncomfortable rush hour moments are when having to endure heaving and pressing body parts in a confined space for  lengthy periods of time. Notes about my experiences follow: ‘Your face could be practically pressing on a hand, an alien hand that is tightly gripping an old creased-up newspaper. You try to face another direction but your vision is obscured by a mass of perfumed hair wafting around by the air conditioner. The Louis Vuitton designer bag jutting into your sweaty back. You attempt to look down and a child’s satchel is digging into your ribs. You are momentarily being held against your will inside a rapid shuttle shooting through the darkness of the underground.  Murray, June 1999

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