Fox, Cat and His Friends
By Michael Forbes

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Year
1996
Media
Oil Painting
Subject Matter
Animals
Reg. Number
P750

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This artwork is an illustration from a children's story which Forbes wrote about a little mouse and his fat cat friend. 'Fox, Cat and His Friends' is a surreal, dream-like image that seems to have emerged fully-formed from the artist's subconscious. Referring to the painting, Michael wrote that the little mouse and his cat friend "want to get to the moon because the mouse believes it is made of cheese... the Cat gets all his farmyard friends to stand on top of each other with the little mouse at the top so he can reach the moon. Although the Cat has a lot of friends unfortunately he does not have enough to reach the moon."

The surrealist, whimsical nature of the subject matter is enhanced by the semi-realistic, matter-of-fact way in which the animal characters are painted. This technique is common in surrealist works, with a realistic painting style utilized to depict fantastical scenes in order to heighten the impact of the painting and further magnify the mystery and uncanny effect of the image. Here, the oil paint is applied smoothly onto the canvas, while the backdrop has a distinctive, recognisably Scottish look and feel. There are plenty of whimsical details; in particular, the stacked animals in the foreground and the mournful face of the pale moon. Looking at the painting is much like entering a youthful dream, full of the mysterious symbolism of childhood and fairy tales. For a moment the painting draws us back into a child-like state of wonder and bemusement, its visual language that of a hidden, dreaming subconscious luring us away from the troubles and problems of reality.

Michael Forbes lives in the Scottish Highlands and has received praise and admiration from such well-known figures as actor Ricky Gervais, critic and cultural commentator George Melly, and director and former Python, Terry Gilliam. His self-taught style has developed from the dark surrealism of his earlier paintings to the 'pop surrealism' of his current works. He has painted numerous celebrities - including Gervais - and recently completed a painting depicting American President Barack Obama.