Naoko Matsubara: In Praise of Hands

Naoko Matsubara: In Praise of Hands

June 11th to July 10th, 2021

Naoko Matsubara is a Japanese-Canadian woodblock print artist. She’s the longest tenured artist, having been with Abbozzo since day one. This June she will be having the 6th solo exhibition in her 27 years with us.⁠

The June 2021 show will be celebrating the North American launch of her book In Praise of Hands including poetry by Penny Boxall published by Oxford University Press, following her 6 month long 2019 solo exhibition “Lifelines” at the Ashmoleon Museum in Oxford.

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.