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Soft wad of happiness

The Ukrainian artist Svyatoslav Ryabkin painted the lively oil on canvas “Cat” (40x35 cm) in 2018.

The blue-haired cat is a soft wad of happiness. This sweet image celebrates the tender world of childhood. Here the cat is surrounded by joyful animals. The composition of them is in graceful balance up to the extremity of the canvas.

The cat is a loved subject by the artist that depictes it in many works. It is lively and playful. Instead, in the painting “Nusy and Norka” it wants cuddles and relaxation on the legs of its master. The painting “Nusy and Norka” has got a very original perspective. Cats are independent and opportunistic and often go where it suits them best!

In the foreground Ryabkin placed the blue fish, the symbol of the Christian religion. He was Inspired by his deep Orthodox faith. The fish seems free to swim but it is circumscribed within the contour of the figure of the cat. The original oil on canvas called “Pink clouds as kittens” is an example of an abstract image of fish and it was a great success with the public.

The beautiful white-winged butterfly rests decoratively on the cat's tail. The artist Ryabkin painted another beautiful painting called “Hunting butterfly” with a butterfly chased in a meadow by a little girl with a net. The elegance of the stroke blends with soft colours that give the effect of pastels.

The artist has dedicated "Cat" to his daughter, now an adult. He would like she always to maintain the typical curiosity of children and to be free in the world and to fly proud into her future like the yellow-feathered bird. Dear readers, do you think the bird is the same one in the wood of the material painting “The birdie sings”?
And is the deep meaning of the "Cat" painting really as idyllic as it sounds? In my opinion no. The artist is living a critical situation in Ukraine due to the bitter conflict between the Ukrainian military forces and the separatist forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, since 2014 in Donbass on the eastern border of Ukraine.

Inevitably his mood is reflected in his art and the political meaning you could give to the picture is that these carefree-looking animals are the States that wrote history on March 12, 1938. The big sly cat represents Nazi Germany that annexed Austria (the swallowed fish) without a real war (Anschluss), despite the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of non-aggression on both sides.

The light blue colour is enriched with dark blue contrasts along the profiles of the subjects to give them depth and the hole image has got many irregular scratches. This effect is often present in Ryabkin's works, achieved with the tip of the handle of his brush. It is an indistinguishable sign of his style that strikes the observer’s attention on an optical and tactile level. It makes the scene dynamic with the soft walk of the cat and the imminent flight of the bird and the butterfly.

However, many short grooves in each point of the canvas show the artist's restlessness.

The little fish is helpless and endures the scene with its wide and questioning gaze towards the observer. It waits to find out what will happen, keeping silent without having drawn its mouth.

Meanwhile, the European powers, such as England and France (symbolized by the butterfly), manifest a fierce criticism of the annexation of Austria. They touch the cat but are turned to the opposite side: in fact, they didn’t intervened. Among these countries, even Italy has tried to the last to prevent this annexation but without any success.

The tension is also perceived on a sensorial level with the bird’s song that is asking for help and symbolizes the Netherlands. In fact, they feared for themselves and in a couple of years the Germans would invade them. Now look at the cat's gaze! It will appear different, more cunning.

The chromatic choice of using blue and yellow colours in different shades more and less intense and the brushstrokes full of matter recall the beautiful “Starry Night” by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1889). So amazing!

The artist signs the painting “Cat” in the lower left part of the canvas with the Cyrillic "R". On the right he painted a yellow marigold bloom on the lawn. This typical flower of Ukraine symbolizes the pain. In Greek mythology these flowers were born from Aphrodite's tears which fell to the ground after the death of her lover Adonis. In 1938 even Ukraine, still part of the Soviet Union, didn’t intervene on the annexation of Austria, despite having shown disappointment like other European countries.

The painting "Cat" was exhibited in the Villa Simion Gallery (in Spinea, near Venice) and at the Miniquadro Fair, a beautiful art exhibition presented by Mr. Vittorio Sgarbi in the Elle Gallery in Preganziol (near Treviso in Italy).

by Elena Sechet

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