Andrew Mezei

Professor Penny Sackett, astronomer and physicist

oil on linen with mixed-media underpainting including acrylic
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Professor Penny Sackett was Australia’s chief scientist from November 2008 until March 2011.

Andrew Mezei first heard Professor Sackett on radio last year. ‘She responded to scepticism about climate change with eloquent reasoning in spite of the historical depiction of women as emotional beings, and reason as being a purely male domain.’

‘Her warm humanist approach inspired me to portray her as an allegory of reason,’ he says. ‘I wanted to show her femininity as perfectly compatible with her impeccable focus on facts. That warmth is portrayed through the red drapery on her lap: the more intense I could make it, the better.’ The setting was plucked from his imagination after looking at various images of Mount Stromlo Observatory. ‘I wanted to construct an interior that would reflect her psychological space.’

‘I also wanted to portray professor Sackett’s calm and steady personality. I placed three circles in the composition; the globe, the mirror, and the small bolt above her head. I set them in orbit, rotating around the focal point of the subject. This also reflects the broader human condition, as we are all contained within a bubble in space, as suggested by my self-portrait in the convex mirror.’