“Before lockdown I wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘a cat person’. Nevertheless, when I was put on furlough during lockdown, a chance meeting with Cookie the cat gave me immense joy and love during a very uncertain time. Cookie walked into the kitchen that opens from the garden on one hot day and I began to feed her little bits of anything I had. We quickly became close friends and she would come back every day. At first I thought she was a stray, but I later realised she was the neighbour’s cat. They didn’t seem to have much interest in her though and she would spend most her time in my garden or in my room. She learnt my routine, what time I was up and when I would go for a walk. She would wait for me to return always and, so I was told and shown later on video, wail out loudly if I wasn’t there.
With nothing else to do, I spent more time with the cat than with any other human! The connection became so close that even when her real owner would call out her name, she would hide under my bed. She was extremely affectionate and loved to cuddle. In a time when everyone was supposed to distance themselves from one another, this particular act of intimacy was perhaps the greatest gift.
Unlike dogs, cats are not dependant on humans or truly domesticated, so when they choose to form such a close relationship with a human, it is almost entirely on their own terms. This makes the connection, if there is one, much more special. Sadly, the story of Cookie did not end well. Her owner moved house and took her away. She could no longer come to my house or visit me. To deal with my sense of loss, cats have become an established genre of my paintings and I frequently paint other cats that have come visited me in the garden: Lily, Vincent and Lady Grey, each with their own character and personality. I hope my paintings of them can give joy to others the way they gave joy to me.”