Divine Ginger Stripes


By Tanya Silverman

Ucello, Saint George feeds the Winged Cat with Organic Food. Photo courtesy of Svetlana Petrova & Zarathustra the Cat, FatCatArt.

“He likes to pose,” Svetlana Petrova says. “He’s a natural-born actor and really likes to play different roles just by himself.”

Petrova is an artist based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The actor she refers to is Zarathustra, her ginger cat whose image she incorporates into assorted artworks using Photoshop. In her work, Zarathustra is snuggled in the Mona Lisa’s arms, mounted on Napoleon’s white horse, and perched on Whistler’s Mother’s lap. He even paws an impaled cheeseburger on the pitchfork in American Gothic.

A covered podium sits in Petrova’s St. Petersburg apartment as Zarathustra’s stage. At times, the fat, orange tabby cat will come mewing to her, leading her to his stage to strike what Petrova describes as “a funny pose with a serious face.” If Petrova is too busy to adhere, Zarathustra becomes upset. Other times, she’ll have a more staged image in mind, in which she’ll engage her professional photographer and cinematographer friends to work on the set.

“We play scenes with Zarathustra as a character and make him act a role, like a real human actor,” she explains.

She compares her means of gauging classic paintings to Michelangelo’s approach to sculpture: “In every block of marble I see a statue.” Forming the statue requires removing the excess materials.

“In every painting, I can see a cat inside,” she says. It is her duty to reveal it.

At times, Petrova receives requests from her real-life friends or Facebook friends to “fat-cat” a certain work of art, which she usually does with pleasure.

Petrova’s communique here is that art, in itself, is not pretentious–it’s a medium that exists to express beauty, and can very well be funny. She references the Romantic artists and their idea that “divine irony really makes sense of the world,” and thus works to develop truth.

Floris van Dijick, Still Life with Cheeses and Cats. Photo courtesy of Svetlana Petrova & Zarathustra the Cat, FatCatArt.

“Irony means that you’re changing the meaning of something and it begins to be funny,” she says. Actively altering the meaning of a subject is development, so in her own way, she is developing art.

Just recently, Petrova wrapped up her first fat-cat gallery show at the Stonehill House in Abingdon, UK, where several pieces of her art were transferred onto textured painting canvases.

The 17th Century stone structure was an appropriate venue to feature Zarathustra, as it’s a former barn where cats hold historical significance: they worked there for centuries to hunt mice.

Petrova says she’s received a few proposals from other galleries. In addition, she’s looking to expand Zarathustra’s acting career into the cinematic realm–she adapted him to a segment of Sunset Boulevard as the first experiment, and is planning on creating further works.

Stay tuned for more fat-cat art and cinema.