I have spent the last 4 weeks since we came back from the extended 6 week painting trip through Cyprus and Crete, publishing paintings and travel sketches from Cyprus in this blog. From there we flew directly to Crete for 3 further weeks, but before I go over to Crete, I want to make a last post here about the Cats from Cyprus. I know I have written quite a lot about them already, but I have today an important message to deliver concerning EVOLUTION.
So here we go. The most extraordinary experience we had with cats in Cyprus was in a place called Agios Nikolaos Ton Gaton. Here is some background info:
“… Situated on Cape Gata south east of Akrotiri Salt Lake near Lemesos (Limassol), Agios Nikolaos ton Gaton (St Nicholas of the Cats) is perhaps the first monastery in Cyprus. The present church probably dates to the late 14th century. Abandoned in the late 16th century, it was re-occupied by Orthodox nuns in the early 1980s. According to tradition, the monastery was founded in the 4th century by Agia Eleni, mother of Constantine the Great, who left a piece of wood from the Holy Cross there. At the time, the island was experiencing a severed rought, forcing many people to leave the island. Snakes multiplied and life in Cyprus, particularly at Akrotiri peninsula was unbearable. According to the medieval historian Stephen Lusignan, after Agia Eleni’s departure, Constantine the Great sent governor Kalokeros to Cyprus who brought thousands of cats to the island to exterminate the snakes…”
There are still thousands of cats in that place, probably direct descendants from the snakes’ exterminators. And judging by the look of some, there must have been some wild cross-breeding between cats, snakes and perhaps even nuns involved…
Anyway, the Main Cat Dude there was the Archbishop, full of the inner peace and wisdom necessary for the job.
We spent a lot of time in that monastery, even though we weren’t quite sure if we were allowed. Kevin had to go through a barbed wire fence to get in there, and I had to climb a big iron gate…. so the sketches I did there were very fast and certainly with a fearful undertone, like for example this one (I apologise for the poor quality…)
The person in black in the background sitting on a bench and reading was a very tall and very old Lady. She is the only person we saw there and we have no idea if there was somebody else. She had at some point come to an inner gate as she has heard us laughing, and gone away again, without telling us to eff off. So I guess we were not unwelcome…
We were fascinated by the diversity of cats, the hundreds of different looks and behaviours. And this is the message I was speaking about at the beginning. Think about it: that convent was a really closed place, and even if cats can climb and go through all kinds of holes, there is, in that remoteness, hardly communication and interchange with the exterior world. The convent is isolated, no houses or farms miles away, so anyway the probability of other cats wandering around is very low. I was really plunged into some evolutionary thoughts as I was watching these cats. I really had not the feeling that their behaviour and look came uniquely from their genes and was not the result of some educational and environment process, as they obviously had all the same. The behaviour ranged from extremely shy to extremely open, from aggressive to friendly, from adventurous to fearsome, etc. In fact, we could recognise in them the whole myriad of human behaviour. I must say, if I was a researcher into animal (or even human) behaviour and evolution, I would spend much time there and observe, I don’t think there are many places like that in the world which allow such kind of research.
Anyway the most incredible cat we saw there was this one
And I swear I haven’t exaggerated! One really wonders which kind of cross this one was… certainly between a cat and snake incorporating the devil!
The fantastic title this time comes from me… you see, I am learning!
I will finish this post with two cats which I saw in a different place, just one hour before we took the plane to Crete. We found this place quite by accident, it was a fabulous sculpture park by Larnaca. The sculptor himself was a fascinating personality, and such an intelligent guy, and we would have loved to spend much more time with him. We just had time to chat a little bit, and to make some photos. That place was very inspiring to me and I even made a painting yesterday inspired by one of his sculptures, The Sphinx, the artist’s first sculpture in large scale,
The little cat was really sitting there next to the Sphinx, a picture for the Gods! Unfortunately the little bastard bit me, and it bit me hard, even if the sculptor said that it didn’t. At least that one didn’t really bite, he said, but his other cat did.. I would have probably ended up in 2 pieces had I met it!
I do hope I will find time at some point to make more paintings inspired by these sculptures. But before I do that I need to be sure that the sculptor agrees with me doing that. I am not sure how the copyright laws are in this matter, and anyway, it is a question of respect of intellectual and artistic property. I have contacted him and I am waiting for his answer.
These cats, and many others, are available directly online as Giclee print in many different dimensions, on paper or canvas, and also as greeting cards. And I promise, my cats really don’t bite. Just click on the widget below to access my FAA Gallery