As Calf, 1971
Ayrton’s sheer determination and focus in his own work, his rejection of the artistic trends which flooded the mid-20th century, meant that he was all too isolated from mainstream criticism and he has remained relatively little known. He died in 1975 and is only now beginning to gain the attention he has long deserved.
'At the centre of the Maze, in all meanings of the expression, is the Minotaur, and Michael Ayrton’s identification of himself with the Minotaur, as well as with Daedalus, lies at the root of his compulsive image. Half bull and half man, the Minotaur stands isolated among the hybrids of the Classical World, since he alone possesses an animal’s head attached to a human body. Whereas Satyrs and Centaurs symbolize the animal urges of man, held in check by civilization, the Minotaur represents, in the words of John Berger, the animal in captivity of an almost human form, and, the suffering which is caused by aspiration and sensibility being rejected because they exist in an unattractive, that is so untamed, uncivilized body. Either way the Minotaur suggests a criticism of civilisation, which inhibits him in the first case and dismiss him in the second.
During the last years of his life, Ayrton continued to explore the theme with further drawings and small bronzes. The Minotaur thus remained, in his frustration at being unable to communicate fully with the world, a potent symbol for Michel Ayrton, and his deep, if not obsessive, attachment to the theme was stated unequivocable by his Personal Janus of 1970.' Peter Cannon-Brookes, Michael Ayrton - An Illustrated Commentary, 1984.
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