I was introduced recently to The Hypatia Trust in Penzance, a charity which supports and promotes women’s achievements through research and documentation, exhibition and publications.
Named after Hypatia (pronounced hy-Pay-shuh), an eminent mathematician, astronomer and philosopher born in fourth-century Alexandria, Egypt, the Trust is home to the Hypatia Collection of books, artefacts and archives which give recognition to the achievements of women in all aspects of their lives (the library is pictured above). There’s a particular focus on the literary, artistic and scientific works of women and their contributions to society and culture.
It’s perhaps no surprise that the Trust is in Chapel Street, the heart of Penzance, a town which has a thriving literary as well as artistic scene. With the Newlyn School of Art just down the road, as well as the Newlyn Art Gallery plus The Exchange in town, alongside a wealth of galleries and exhibitions, the town’s artistic heritage is well known. What I hadn’t appreciated was the extent of the flourishing literary scene in the area but take a look at the Piccolina, the monthly poetry newsletter for Cornwall, and you’ll discover just how vibrant it is.
One artist whose work embraces both the written word and visual art is Diana Dixon, a poet and sculptor. Diana’s clay work is being exhibited at The Hypatia Trust with a ‘Mother and Child’ theme. The show is partly retrospective, partly introducing new work created over the winter. In the late ‘70s Diana met Henry Moore who spoke to her about recurring themes and the role of inspiration. “True to his teaching I have sculpted the human form, especially mother and child, for over forty years – with one major innovation: Henry Moore’s work has a very solid base, my work…has exploited the natural force of gravity.” When she was young Diana lost her balance on a cliff top and fell in to the sea and “the sensation of falling between one element to another has prevailed” through her work.
Diana has also been writing poetry almost her entire life. When she moved to Penzance over twenty years ago she started to perform her work and for the last couple of years she has focused on local readings and performance. She describes her work as reflecting the “warp and weft of living. Sometimes they are sad and painful, often they are humorous. Always they seek our vulnerability and mortality – hopefully with a gentle ‘eye’ – whilst I explore the themes of loss, love, illness and death”.
You can see Diana’s work at The Hypatia Trust from 11th May to 14th June. Well worth a visit.
And if you need somewhere to stay try the Chapel House just down the road at the end of Chapel Street. Set in a beautiful Georgian building the hotel has six rooms, some with views out to sea. Take a stroll along the seafront and through the exotic Morrab Gardens, maybe take in the Exchange and stop off for a bite to eat at the nearby Mermaid Alley.