“Fantasy of a pet cat” (2006) by Tokuhiro Kawai

Japanese contemporary artist Tokuhiro Kawai uses his mastery of oil painting to create surreal images that invoke the Italian painters of the High Renaissance. But instead of biblical figures, kings and queens, Kawai infuses his paintings with cherubs, children and cats. Lots of cats.

“Hallucination of pet cats to be in contact” (2013) by Tokuhiro Kawai

Traditionally, the classical approach to painting has always been intended for narrative: heroes, saints and the divine were painted in their glorious feats of battle or miraculous miracles. But the task of storytelling has since been ceded literature and film. Kawai attempts to rekindle this fragile bond, but in a contemporary context in which religion and epic battles are less a part of our lives. “Human beings live their life carrying this kind of contradiction or unanswerable problems. By creating an original hero, I want to pursue the amusing trait of a mankind who exists with the desire to battle, and yet have contradictory behaviors,” says Kawai.

The 49-year old painter received his undergraduate degree and graduate degree from Tokyo University of the Arts. He’s represented by Gallery Gyokuei in Tokyo but you can also follow him on Instagram.

“Mutualism — Livelihood of cat –” (2010) by Tokuhiro Kawai

“Thinking thoughts smolder” (2009) by Tokuhiro Kawai

“Bird and Actindia” (2012) by Tokuhiro Kawai

“Mutualism/Sweets world〜Victory of guardian〜” (2015) by Tokuhiro Kawai

“melancholia of regeneration” (2016) by Tokuhiro Kawai