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Noboru Sawai,  1931 - 2016

Noboru Sawai is most remembered for his erotic multi-media prints. However, he was also an influential professor, who taught a generation of artists, from Cape Dorset to Israel, the process of printmaking. 

Noboru Sawai was born on Feb. 18, 1931 in Takamatsu, Japan and spent his early childhood years in and around his birthplace. He learned English while working as a cook’s assistant at the U.S. military headquarters.  He moved to the United States to study at the Lutheran Bible Institute, however, shortly after his arrival, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and spent the next nine years at a TB hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

In 1962, married his first wife Gloria Sawai. Shortly after, they moved to Minneapolis to start a family and Sawai resumed his studies. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Augsburg College in 1966, and completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota, in 1969. 

In 1971, they returned to Japan so Sawai could study traditional woodblock printmaking in Tokyo. Later that year they relocated to Canada, with Sawai teaching printmaking and drawing in the University of Calgary’s Art Department. He held that position for the nest 22 years.

Upon retirement in 1993,  Sawai relocated to Vancouver and set up his own printmaking studio where he developed his technique of combining the relief printing of woodblocks with the intaglio techniques of printing from etched copper plates. He also dedicated time to his interest in paper-making, and made several trips back to Japan to learn about making his own handmade paper, with the generous support of the Kashiki paper company in Kochi, Japan.

Sawai was internationally known for his erotic imagery, however he considered himself a deeply philosophical and contradictory person. Friends described him as eccentric and outgoing.

Noboru Sawai died on April 23, 2016 at the age of 85 in Vancouver. 

Selected Collections
Memorial University, NFLD
Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, QB
Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB
Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen´s University, Kingston, ON
Art Gallery of Brant, Brantford, Ontario, ON
Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, ON
Clarkson Gordon, Toronto, ON
Government o Canada, Department Of External Affairs, Ottawa, ON
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
Queen´s University, Kingston, ON
London Life, London, ON
London Public Library And Art Museum, London, ON
Toronto Dominion Bank, Toronto, ON
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON
University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB
University of Saskatchewan, SK
Mendel Art Gallery, SK
University of Calgary, Calgary, AB
Alberta Art Foundation, Edmonton, AB
Alberta College of Art, Calgary, AB
Alberta Provincial Government, Churchill Square Bldg, Edmonton, AB
Alberta Provincial Government, Remand Centre, Calgary, AB
Shell Oil, Calgary, AB
Muttart Gallery, Calgary, AB
Guaranty Trust, Calgary, AB
Credit Union Central, Calgary, AB
Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, AB
Esso Resources, Calgary, AB
Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, AB
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Calgary, AB
Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary AB
Peter Whyte Gallery, Banff, AB
Calgary Convention Centre, Calgary, AB
Camrose Lutheran College, Camrose, Alberta, AB
Athabaska University, Edmonton, Alberta, AB
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC
University of Victoria, Victoria, BC

Trinity Lutheran Congregation, Minneapolis, MA
University of Oregon, Salem, OR
University of Wisconsin, Parkside, WI
Lloyd Art Loan Foundation, Berea, Kentucky
Bradford Metropolitan Council, Bradford, England, UK
Canadian Embassy, Tel Aviv, Israel
International Print Biennale, Cabo Frio, Brazil