If you’ve ever been to Certosa di Pavia, the chances are you met Gian Galeazzo. Not the great founding patron of the monastery, but a cat named after the famous Visconti duke. The cat lives there, just as the monks do. And if one of these days you drop by to the Castle of Pavia (for centuries, home to the Visconti dynasty), the chances are you’ll meet Two Cats, currently the most famous among Pavian felines. The cats now live there, enjoying hospitality of the Castle’s hosts.
Their patron is Rimantas Rolia, the Father of Cats, as Pavia people lovely call him. Illustrator, graphic designer, cartoonist and poster artist, Rolia lives and works in Lithuania, where he is as famous and popular as his cats have become here. Among the many books illustrated by this author, two or more are in English, as Hoot and Holler by Alan Brown (Random House, 2001).
What makes Rolia’s illustrations (and cats) stand out from other works present in the exhibition, is the way they connect to the text. Rimantas Rolia has brought to the Italian spectators some illustrations from Songs of Little Thrush (original tilte: Strazdelio Dainos – Kronta, 2005), a poetry book by a famous Lithuanian poet, Sigitas Geda.
Illustrating poetry is an extremely difficult affair, and the solution he proposes is not an illustration, but a dialogue between the text and the image (read more in Rolia’s interview, The Characters Choose Their Colours and Style).
One last curiosity. During interviews, Rolia loves to joke telling that it was the Two Cats that have brought him to the world’s attention. This year, the two feline stars celebrate their 20 year anniversary (not bad, for a cat). As their Father put it “seriously” some days ago:
Who knows, perhaps it were the cats that organized this beautiful occasion to come to Italy, and not the other way around?
Long live the Cats!
Words by Jurga