Russian artist Svetlana Petrova has become known for her online artwork of famous portraits featuring her big ginger cat Zarathustra. The artist tells the BBC why she first created the artwork and how digital technology is helping to create new art forms: ” I lost my mother in 2008 and she left me Zarathustra. I got horrible depression after her death and for two years I was unable to do something creative. By chance a friend asked me ‘why don’t you make an art project with your cat because he’s so funny’.
I’ve had cats before and included them in my work, like playing in theatre shows and I’ve made costumes for them. But I thought, ‘What can I do with Zarathustra, because my mother spoilt him and he’s so fat’, Zarathustra likes posing and is a really intelligent cat. He likes to lie on his back and make strange faces like he’s speaking with somebody, so I began to take photos of him and inserted them into paintings.
I liked the result so I sent it to some friends, other artists and galleries. Everyone laughed so much, so I made a website, but then forgot about it because I had another project. After a few months, another friend saw my cat work in my albums and asked why I had it. I told him it was my cat and he said: ‘Your cat is all over the internet!’
Now we have special photo sessions with a professional photographer and a team who entertain Zarathustra. But sometimes he’s not in the mood and I have to wait months until he agrees to make the right face. I see his pose and imagine what painting he can enter, or I find a painting and try to make him play that role of the character I see in the painting. Sometimes it’s a character in the original painting, sometimes it’s an added character. Like with the Mona Lisa – in the original photo, Zarathustra was really sinking in my hands on my lap and sliding because he’s too big – it makes Mona Lisa look like a modern girl who’s taking a selfie with her cat.
I also now make digital paintings – I use high-resolution digital reproductions of the artworks and insert the cat in the style of the painting. Then I print them on natural canvas in the size of the original and paint over them with textured gels and oils and match the colours as closely as possible “.