Naoko Matsubara

Netsuke - Goldfish


Back in April, when I was searching The British Museum's website netsuke collection, I found a beautiful bulbous orange goldfish. I wanted to draw this striking creature but it was not available at the time. Instead I bought The British Museum's book "Netsuke - 100 Miniature Masterpieces” by Noriko Tsuchiya and found a full colour closeup of the same goldfish. I made a drawing from the photograph and then a carving on magnolia wood. I printed the key block with Japanese carbon ink on white Hosho paper. Since January I have been making prints with Japanese carbon ink, enjoying the blackness of the ink against the white paper. Focusing on my carving technique. I have been inspired by Shiko Munakata's passion for black and white prints and I haven't ventured into multi-colour prints. Only a brief play with the Orchids and the Boats in the Sand at Paul Furneaux's workshop.



This Goldfish netsuke is orange. I think about making a second carving to give this goldfish print an orange body. And then I stop and I wonder why I didn’t feel compelled to make the Horse Grazing a warm chestnut? Why not make the Elephant and Man glow with that dark golden patina? Or the Ape Clutching a Gourd, mahogany? Maybe something resonates here in Victoria Finlay's chapter on orange in her book 'Colour - Travels through the Paintbox’.

Orange - is the most eye catching colour and - in Cremona’s city hall it is the orange violin which jumps out straight away, shouting: ‘Look at me first!; the yellow and brown ones don’t make the same demands - I drove into Cremona on a warm day in August, to find out how one particular orange can - perhaps - make musical instruments sing.
— Victoria Finlay - Colour

I think about Naoko Matsubara's beautiful fiery orange and pink woodblock prints of dancers, Inari and Maiko. Orange is singing to me and I am again brought back to that moment where the main character, Mataichi, from Kanoko Okamoto's book 'A Riot of Goldfish', opens the lid to view his goldfish.

But soon there bobbed into view, like a Corpulent French beauty or a graceful and majestic woman of the Tempyo era, a round body, eyes, and a mouth with eyebrows, that made you want to paint them.
— A Riot of Goldfish by Kanoko Okamoto

Black on White

I'm not ready for colour today but as I follow the path of black on white, I hold these whispers of orange on the horizon.

It is the secret of knowing yourself and your materials so well that you can wrap your life’s experiences into the very body of an instrument, just as a true musician puts his or her life experiences into the playing of it - and when both elements are right, the together - maker and musician - you can persuade your violin to sing and cry and dance the orange.
— Victoria Finlay - Colour

Goldfish woodblock


Sosaku Hanga & Orchids in the Wood

Shiko Munakata

My Swimming Whales exploration reminds me of my trip to the Bower Ashton campus library at UWE last October. While exploring the library shelves I came across Shiko Munakata, founder of the Creative Print movement in Japan. His process resonated with me as he also let the wood speak as there is no right and wrong, just the doing of it.

"The essence of hanga lies in the fact that one must give in to the ways of the board," he says. "There is power in the board and one cannot force the tool against that power. It is this power which lies outside this artist, rather than any power within him, that dominates the creation of hanga." Shiko Munakata The Woodblock and the Artist - Southbank Centre London 1991

Naoko Matsubara

On the shelves of UWE library I also found a thin pamphlet hiding between the heavy hardbacks. It's an exhibition booklet of prints by Naoko Matsubara, a Japanese woodblock printer also from the Creative Print Movement. I have fallen in love with her dynamic and expressive work which focuses on nature and architecture, dancers and movement.

"Nature, in a Matsubara print, is not a passive, uncomprehending background to our endeavours, as much as a pulsating force whose destiny is closely intertwined with that of humans." David Waterhouse


Not long after my visit to UWE library and finding Naoko Matsubara and Shiko Munakata's inspiring work I was determined to try and make a two colour print of some orchids I drew at Wisley Gardens a couple of years ago.


It was very experimental as the registration was completely wrong but some interesting results!