The legendary nonconformist Oleg Tselkov found his character in 1960, and this image does not leave his picture, his thoughts ever since. he simply calls the creatures with bald heads, narrow foreheads, eyes-slits and elephant-like bodies – «mugs». According to the artist, for almost 60 years of creating this «unprecedented hitherto tribe», he could not understand who they were. Maybe this is the personification of some animal essence, which is hidden in us under the guise of a man.
In the paintings from the 60’s-period the «mugs» look flat, the colors are almost local. In the early 70's, Tselkov began working in the Rembrandt technique of painting: by applying many layers of paint, creating the finest glaze, he reaches a new depth of color. At the same time, the artist starts using no more than 2-3 spectral colors in the canvases (red, pink, green, purple, etc.), sometimes black. And one of them always acts as the main one – often in the background, in which the depicted figures are buried. Oleg Tselkov has been improving this technique for many years. By the 80’s, the artist's recognizable artistic style had been already formed. His paintings seem to glow from the inside, their color, their volume can not be shown by any camera. Tselkov, standing behind the easel for nine hours a day, can be working with one canvas from one year to three years. Usually he has several paintings in the process: while the layers of paint on the one are drying out, the artist continues the other.
The work «With a gun» has an important feature – it is two-sided, which is extremely rare for Oleg Tselkov. Both picturesque planes are finished works–- this confirms the artist's signature on both sides. Initially, «With a gun» was the «face» painting and the «back» one, with the image of a cat, was as if crossed out by a stretcher. Given that both paintings were dated by one year, it becomes clear that this is the artist's idea. The work shows a story that depicts Tselkov’s reflections. A cat is always a self-portrait of the artist, a butterfly – love. And while there is love, as long as it flutters, life makes sense. But if love dies, then there is nothing left to do but take the pistol and become the character of the reverse side of the picture.
Later, with the artist's consent, the picturesque plane with the cat was freed from the stretcher. There was a symbolic «rebirth from the dead», as Tselkov said: «I put a cross on myself, and you shocked me with electric shock, and returned me back. Okay, I'll stay!». After such a change, the work acquired its balance: death is opposed to love, and the bullet that was released turned into the amygdala in the character's mouth. The coloring of the pictures corresponds to their mood. The colors seem to be extinct in the part with the gun, and the orange in combination with the green creates some morbid atmosphere. On the contrary, the cat is made in a rich pink color, one can feel calm and harmony.
Oleg Tselkov's paintings can be divided into conditional cycles in terms of color, themes or subjects that the «mugs» use. Tselkov’s heroes are similar to people of one nationality: look very similar, but are still completely different, unique. At the same time, of course, Tselkov has his own iconography of images, which, by his periodic repetition, emphasizes his symbolism. The presented work is interesting in the way that it a rare character for the picturesque world of Tselkov appears – a cat, as well as this is one of the few cases when the picture is missing the «mug». A cat can also be found in the flat paintings by Oleg Tselkov from the 60’s («Portrait of a woman», 1963; «Portrait», 1966). But its iconography took shape only at the turn of the 80's and 90's: the characteristic shape of an elongated body, the «pipe» tail and the moth hovering at the top («With a cat», 1993). In the work «With a gun», depicting the cat alone on the canvas, Tselkov makes it a pure symbol of a living soul. V