In Praise of Hands: Naoko Matsubara

11 June - 10 July 2021

The woodcuts in In Praise of Hands focus on the very tools that define humanity: our hands. The colourful and lively woodblock prints present in this exhibition serve to elevate the almost mundane perception of the human hand, as Matsubara transforms these mere body parts into fitting symbols and representations for entire cultural concepts. Where we might think of familial bonds as being intangible concepts best represented by physical gestures or long uninterrupted descriptive sentences, Matsubara visualizes this complex concept in the bright orange figures of a mother and her child reaching out to each other (Mother and Baby, 1979). Where we might think of forests and oceans as evidence of the life-giving force of water, Matsubara inserts humanity into this context by conveying two cupped hands welcoming fresh drops of water from above, a theme as universal as water itself, and connects us to the natural world by having the colour green be so prevalent in this piece (Water, 1974).

Matsubara seeks to communicate that our hands are not special simply because of their various abilities, be it gently holding a loved one or gracefully manipulating a paintbrush, but because they are the links between the human mind and the physical world. Hands are the conduits of our ideas, aspirations, desires, and emotions, and the vehicles that allow for our interactions with the universe around us.