Minotaur Alarmed, 1970
Bronze, with a light golden brown patina
Edition of 9
Height: 6 inches (15cm high)
Conceived and cast in 1970
Michael Ayrton was a true renaissance man; he was a sculptor, painter, printmaker of figures and landscapes; illustrator, draughtsman, theatrical designer; film-maker, writer and art critic.
The Whitechapel Art Gallery held the last solo show of Ayrton’s work in 1955 of his drawings and paintings, after this date his exploration of equilibrium lead him towards sculpture. He greatly admired and took advice from Henry Moore, who helped with the technical development of his sculpture. His work is represented in public collections including Tate and MOMA.
Ayrton was fascinated by Greek Mythology, especially the Daedelus myth. In this story the King of Mynos employed Daedelus to build a labyrinth to enclose his Minotaur son. Having constructed the maze the King realised that Daedelus was the only one who knew its secrets and so the King imprisoned him and his son in a tower. The ever-brilliant Daedelus created a pair of wings from wax and feathers and gave them to his son, Icarus. The young man leapt from the tower and flew like a bird away form the tower but not heeding his father’s words flew too close to the sun and the wax in his wings melted, sending him to his death.
Various forms of the Minotaur, the maze, Daedelus and Icarus feature in Ayrton’s sculpture as he sought to reinterpret mythological ideas in terms of the figure through his powerful style. It was also the larger themes of the myth that he sought to explore. Ayrton wrote ‘Since 1964, most of my work has been concerned with the image of a man in a labyrinth. ...Thus the maze has come to serve for me as an image of my own life and indeed of any individual’s life. Every man, it seems to me, makes his maze out of his experiences, his circumstances, his hopes and fears, and in it he lives, so that the shape of it identifies him.
‘Every maze is therefore different, for each is personal and yet various. Each is a prison and a sanctuary, a journey and a destination...it contains him wholly and he extends it all his life.’ - Michael Ayrton
Cast 3/3 of the Monumental Arkvillle Minotaur sold at Christie’s for £205,000 in July 2013.
The Arkville Minotaur, St Alphage’s Highwalk, London