Idea of a Certain Cat (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2004, Oil and Tempera on Board)

To balance yesterday’s post about the dog star, today we feature three whimsical cat paintings by Tokyo born surrealist Tokuhiro Kawai.  I am calling Kawai a surrealist, but perhaps it would be more correct to call him a painter of fantastical narrative: all of his works seem to have some sort of magical fairy-tale story behind them.  Although the three monarchical cats shown here are lighthearted, some of Kawai’s other paintings are much more melodramatic and feature fearsome conflict between devils, angels, and heroes.

Tame Cat’s Optical Illusion (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2006, Oil on Canvas)

Each of these paintings features a Scottish Fold housecat either wearing a crown or being ceremonially coronated.  The little black and white cat is so self-assured and regal that we hardly wonder at its elevation to the throne.  With broad gleaming eyes and fur that seems as though the viewer could touch it, the cat seems real.  One wonders if perhaps it belongs to the artist.

Smolder Thinking (Tokuhiro Kawai, 2008, Oil on Canvas)

Kawai has a particular gift for painting animals and many of his compositions are filled from top to bottom with flamingos, foxes, owls, ammonites, and pelicans.  Cats seem to be his favorite and they are pictured as conquerors, tyrants, and gods—in one of his pictures a feisty cat has killed an angel like it was a songbird and is holding the limp corpse in his fangs while standing like a stylite atop a classical column. Fortunately the cat in these three paintings does not seem as violent.  The little kitty is clearly dreaming about the trappings of power—what it would be like to wield absolute authority and be pampered all day.  Knowing my own pet housecat’s personality, I believe that such an interpreatation of feline psychology is not entirely a stretch.

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