St. Catharines has a vibrant visual arts community that shares its bounty through exhibits, outdoor art and temporary art installations. The City of St. Catharines provides an ongoing exhibit program at City Hall, and has a public art collection of permanent and temporary artworks found throughout City buildings, parks and property. Additional art exhibits by community organizations can be found outside the walls of St. Catharines many galleries. Information about these can be found under Exhibits.
Artists interested in the City's public art commissions and calls for artists can access current information through this page and the City's Cultural Services office.
Jeux d'eau / Games of Water by artist Naoko Matsubara is the first commissioned work of public art in the City of St. Catharines' Civic Art Collection. The work was unveiled during the official opening ceremonies of the newly constructed St. Catharines Kiwanis Aquatics Centre and Library Branch on Tuesday July 3, 2012. Mayor Brian McMullan was joined at the event by Lisa Matheson and Frank Coy of Water Communications Inc. who sponsored the artwork. Also on hand to speak about the commission was Lesley Bell, Co-Chair of the St. Catharines Public Art Advisory Committee.
Jeux d'eau / Games of Water is an exploration of aquatic movement. This dynamic composition celebrates the exhilaration that takes place when water and motion are combined. Using vibrant colours, semi-abstract shapes and sculptural techniques such as carving, Matsubara conveys the energetic activity and liveliness that the St. Catharines Kiwanis Aquatics Centre embodies.
During her speech to the crowd at the unveiling Naoko Matsubara stated that:
"I am well known as a woodcut artist, having worked in this medium for over 50 years. I decided for this task not to use the beautiful but somewhat fragile medium of woodcut print. In a public space, where people of all ages congregate, youngsters especially tend to be energetic and active, and might bump into a mural in the lobby; so I decided instead to paint directly on wood, a much stronger material than paper. I used plenty of bright colours; and, from the beginning, this being my second attempt at filling up 24 wooden panels, I felt so much more at ease in designing the whole. This time, I tried to ignore the 2x2 grid, of which I had been very conscious for (an earlier) piece; and I painted to convey the flowing nature of water. The result is not a descriptive portrayal of a pool or of the ocean, but seeks to capture the nature of water in its environment, combined with a vivid assembly of colours and movement to sustain the image as a whole. In my capacity as a woodcut artist, I further applied a sharp knife to cut into the painted panels, to suggest the force and speed of moving water.
I am very happy with the result; and my husband, a musician and scholar, gave me the title, borrowed from that of Ravel's beautiful piano piece Jeux d'eau (literally Games of Water). I love this title and the music itself; and I listened many times to a recording of Martha Argerich playing the piece, as I put the finishing touches to my work and applied many coatings of Varathane to it.
Only last week, when I came here to supervise the hanging of the mural, I saw the finished building for the first time; and the same uplifting emotion came over me strongly, as I experienced the thoughtful arrangement of space and facilities in this work of 21st-century architecture.
I am so proud to have my mural adorn this fine building; and I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the Mayor of St. Catharines and to all the citizens of this lovely city."
This work was commissioned by the City of St. Catharines for its Civic Art Collection in 2011. The City of St. Catharines is grateful for the sponsorship contribution of Water Communications Inc.
Naoko Matsubara is a graduate of the Kyoto Academy of Fine Arts, was a Fulbright scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and was an invited special student at the Royal College of Art in London. She taught at the Pratt Graphic Centre in New York and the University of Rhode Island. She moved to Canada in 1972 and established her studio in Oakville. She remains extremely active as an artist of woodcut prints, collage, painting and sculpture. Naoko Matsubara has exhibited throughout the world, and has published 20 portfolios and books. She is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1981), has an honorary doctorate of Fine Art from Chatham University, Pittsburgh (2009), and received the 2010 Alumni Distinguished Achievement Award from Carnegie Mellon University. Her works are in public art collections around the world.