Exploring the concept of ‘conditional optimism’ my work confronts dominant narratives of pessimism and celebrates science-driven human progress. My pentaptych, is a study of the F-1 rocket engine Injector Plate and Hypatia – a female philosopher-mathematician who lived in Alexandria, Egypt and was lynched by christian mob in 415 CE.
I found the similarity between the form of the plate and the rose windows of Gothic architecture striking and was further inspired when I researched Rose Windows aka Catherine’s window and found a powerful connection to Hypatia.
Hypatia’s shocking death hands of a Christian mob was ordered, by Bishop Cyril of Alexandria – a man recognised as one of ‘Fathers of the Church’. That mob stripped her naked and tore her body to pieces. None of Hypatia’s writings are extant. She was essentially obliterated from history. Cyril was made a saint.
The story of Hypatia’s murder was appropriated – in perhaps the ultimate irony – by Christianity as the story of the Martyrdom of St Catherine. In the story she is a devout Christian and scholar who is murdered for her beliefs by pagans. The symbol of the Catherine Wheel is a reference to her attempted execution by being ‘broken on the wheel’ as ordered by the pagan emperor Justinian (the wheel miraculously broke on touching Catherine).
In my Pentaptych ‘Hypatia’s Window’ I have sought to re-appropriate Hypatia’s story from her appropriation in the Saint Catherine legend.
The series appears as a dizzying geometric landscape and it is only the last painting that reveals the ‘window’ motif to be actually a machine – the F-1 injector plate!! Humanities greatest achievement to date – we walked on another world – even if it was our moon.