You can switch the focus between an axes and figure by calling them with an output, the figure handle, and using the axes() and figure() functions.
fig1 = figure();
ax = axes();
fig2 = figure();
Creates two figures with an axes on the first figure.
Here, because fig2 was called last, the focus is on fig2. If I were to call gcf (get current figure), I'd get fig2's properties.
If I want to plot on fig1's axes:
Will automatically switch focus to fig1, the parent of ax.