Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 16:35

The eminent sculptor Tim Shaw, who made The Rites of Dionysus, one of the best-known works of art at the Eden Project, has been elected an Academician at The Royal Academy of Arts.

This is major recognition of Tim Shaw and his artistic contribution as Royal Academicians are considered to be among the greatest names in the art world. He is due to receive the honour at the Royal Academy on November 5.

The Belfast-born artist, who has a studio near Falmouth, Cornwall, worked on the commission from Eden for four years until 2004.

Situated on a slope in the vine exhibit in the Mediterranean Biome, The Rites of Dionysus depicts the Greek god of the vines in the form of a raging bull,  presiding over the writhing forms of 11 life-sized figures representing his followers,  known as the Maenads.

Eden chose to commission Dionysus so the art work could sit between the wild and cultivated lands, a reminder of the need for balance, and of how delicate that balance is.

Aside from Dionysus, Tim Shaw has undertaken a number of other public commissions, including The Minotaur for The Royal Opera House and The Drummer in Truro City Centre.

His election to the RA has just been announced. The Royal Academicians are the 'Members' or 'RAs' who govern the Academy and are responsible for its direction.

At any one time there are no more than 80 Royal Academicians, all eminent practising artists, along with an unlimited number of Senior Academicians, aged 75 and over.

Eight years after the last piece was installed, The Rights of Dionysus remains very close to Tim Shaw’s heart.  He said:  “It is a seminal piece in my folio – my first public art work and a major piece in terms of its scale and integration with the landscape.

“I had never worked with copper before and it was without some anxiety to start with. It represents four years of hard work. I love the way it fits into this amazing space.  It is weathering beautifully.”

Eden Co-Founder Sir Tim Smit said of the accolade: “We are all delighted that Tim Shaw has been elected to the Royal Academy. His work is of the highest quality in terms of both technical craftsmanship and imagination and, here at Eden his work has given pleasure to millions struck by his bravura creation The Rites of Dionysus, interpreting the role of the grape in the history of humankind.

“When we built Eden the three planks on which we based our interpretation were art, artefact and artifice. Tim magnificently synthesised these notions into a tableau vivant expressive of all three, but whose ultimate achievement is to create pieces that work collectively and individually so that the whole captures something more than the sum of its parts. This is, in my view the test of an artist in their prime and Tim is such a man."