Square work on paper featuring abstract white arches on orangey red paper

Naoko Matsubara, Conducting 20/20 (detail), 2004. Woodcut print, Sheet size: 18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in. Image courtesy of Abbozzo Gallery. Photo: Hannah Scott

Naoko Matsubara

Opening December 21, 2024

Galleries 140 & 141, Level 1

Admission is always FREE for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders & Indigenous Peoples. Learn more.


A career-spanning presentation of 20 exuberant woodcut prints by one of Canada’s leading printmakers, in her first solo exhibition at the AGO, Naoko Matsubara demonstrates her masterful handling of the medium, exploring personal and art historical subjects. Composed of vibrant, complementary colours animated with incisions and wood grain, anchoring the exhibition is Tagasode (2014), a monumental 2 meter single-sheet print, recalling an ikō – a piece of furniture on which a kimono hangs.  

Also featured are seven woodcut prints from her series In Praise of Hands (1973-2020). Inspired by the movements of her baby’s hands, in which the artist saw the “very beginnings of human communication fluently expressed in so much variety” this series illustrates the ingenuity of hands performing actions like weaving bamboo, playing the flute and carving wood. Curated by Renée van der Avoird, associate curator of Canadian Art, in addition to a dynamic grouping of more recent, abstract woodcut prints, the exhibition is bookended by two career-spanning self-portraits—one from 1966 (age 29); and the other from 2024 (age 87).

Naoko Matsubara is a distinguished Japanese-Canadian woodcut print artist based in Oakville, Ontario. She was born in 1937 on Shikoku Island into a Shinto family, and grew up in Kyoto. She completed a BFA at the Kyoto Academy of Fine Art in 1960 and was a Fulbright Scholar at what is now Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, where she completed her MFA in 1962. Matsubara was a Special Invited Student at the Royal College of Art in London that same year. After travelling extensively in Europe and Asia, the artist returned to Japan for two years, before returning to the United States. There she worked as assistant to the German-American professor, publisher and illustrator Fritz Eichenberg, and also taught at the Pratt Institute of Graphic Art in New York, as well as at the University of Rhode Island.

Since 1960 Matsubara has had more than 75 solo exhibitions, in the USA, Canada, Japan, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland and Mexico. She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions. Her work is held in major public institutions worldwide such as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, USA; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Detroit Institute of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Buffalo AKG Art Museum; the British Museum in London; the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art; among many others.

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