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The Unfinished Print

Jan 18, 2021

One of the main reasons I wanted to start The Unfinished Print was to have a chance to speak to the artists who have made an indelible mark on the world of mokuhanga. In many respects, I would call those printmakers, "legends." Naoko Matsubara in my humble opinion is one of those "legends." Her work spans several generations, across many countries, and has challenged what it means to be a mokuhanga artist. In this episode of The Unfinished Print I speak to Naoko Matsubara about her philosophies on mokuhanga, her travels across Canada, Tibet, and the United States, as well as her new book In Praise of Hands.

I conducted this interview with Naoko Matsubara in her home in Oakville, Ontario where she has lived for over forty years. She was gracious enough to allow me into her home, and as we were using masks (PPE), and were socially distanced from each other the microphone did its best to pick up the audio. While the audio is good, it is not as good as I have come to expect from The Unfinished Print, so I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause the listener. There is a lot of great information in my interview with Naoko Matsubara for the mokuhanga practitioner, historian, and layman. Enjoy. 

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Notes: all notes may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase!

Naoko Matsubara 直子松原 - website

In Praise of Trees - was a book published in 1984 showcasing, with poetry Naoko Matsubara's tree prints. It is no longer in print.

In Praise of Hands - is a book just published by The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK. Like In Praise of Trees it contains poetry accompanied by prints related to the hand. You can purchase this book here

Man'yōshū 万葉集 - Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, compiled during the Nara Period (710-794) the Man'yōshū is a compendium of waka 和歌 poetry relating to many topics such as court life but is more famous for its poems about romance and love. The new Japanese Emperor Period Reiwa (令和) comes from the Man'yōshū.

The Abbozzo Gallery in Toronto contains a large number of Naoko Matsubara's works. 

Nihonbashi Takashimaya - is a large department store located in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo. This district was a famous merchant district during the Edo Period (1603-1868). It is also famous for its bridge where at one point one could see Mt. Fuji. The Takashimaya chain of department stores began from humble beginnings in Tokyo in 1831. What I find of interest is that department stores such as the Takashimaya in and around major Japanese cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto) will have curated art shows. 

Munakata Shiko 志功棟方 (1903-1975) arguably one of the most famous modern printmakers, Shiko is famous for his prints of women, animals, the supernatural, and Buddhist deities. He made his prints with an esoteric fervour where his philosophies about mokuhanga were just as interesting as his print work. 

HAP Grieshaber (1909-1981) - a German printmaker who is famous for his large printwork full of colour and themes of anti-fascism and anti-oppression. Having lived during the Nazi occupation Grieshaber's work is powerful and relentless.

Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990) was a German printmaker, illustrator, designer who criticized the Nazi party and moved to New York where most of his work was created. His prints are predominantly black and white with themes from literature, especially Russian. 

Harry Abrams (Abrams Books) - an art book publisher who began publishing art books in 1949. 

Boston Impressions - a series of prints as well as a book (1970) of the same name created by Naoko Matsubara of her life in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Kinggait ᑭᙵᐃᑦ - formerly known as Cape Dorset, is located in the territory of Nunavut in the Qikiqtaaluk Region (ᕿᑭᖅᑖᓗᒃ) It is an artistic hub especially for printmaking. James Houston (1921-2005), was a civil administrator at Cape Dorset and is said to have taught several Inuit artists the art of printmaking. John Houston, James' son continues to work with the Kinggait community as a filmmaker. The hyper-link of John's name links to a talk he gave for IdeaCity, a TED Talk type. 

Canada has its own embarrassing history of colonialism (The Hudson's Bay Co., Catholicism) and this has affected the Inuit people of the Qikiqtaaluk Region. If you have the time please read this "people's history" of the Inuit of this region, here. It is told by the people who lived during the period of 1950-1975, as a community history describing the abuse suffered by many during this time from alcohol, unemployment, and relocation. 

Iwano Ichibei - ninth-generation Living National Treasure of the Echizen paper making family.  

Carnegie Mellon University - located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

opening credit background music: One For Daddy-O by Cannonball Adderly

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