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A view of the mediterranean biome with multiple sculptures in a circle and a bull in the middle

The Rites of Dionysus

Find this Bacchanalian artwork amid the grapevines in our Mediterranean Biome.


Tim Shaw

Tim Shaw
The Rites of Dionysus, 2000–2004

Tim Shaw’s sculptures depict the myth of Dionysus, Greek god of the vines, and his followers, the Maenads, who dance and writhe through the vines beating drums and sounding trumpets.

Dionysus is shown here as a raging bull, but in ancient Greek myths his wild, untamed nature is often personified as a virile young man, a lion or a serpent. He was later known as Bacchus by the Romans. The story goes that he started out with good intentions as the god of vegetation, but things changed when he went from growing the vine to drinking its fermented juices!

The Dionysian myths serve as an insight into ancient civilisations and they also articulate truths of human nature that resonate with veracity to this day – beneath the veneer of everyday society lie dark and powerful forces of unpredictable magnitude.

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

A close up view of a couple of the Dionysus sculptures surrounded by Mediterranean foliage with the Biome structure in the background

The Dionysian myths are amongst the oldest and most potent stories that link mankind with nature

About the artist

Contemporary visual artist and sculptor Tim Shaw was born in Belfast in 1964. Educated in Belfast, Dublin and Enniskillen, he began modelling with clay in school and decided to become a sculptor at the age of 15 after discovering a book on Rodin in a local bookshop.

Tim Shaw studied art at Manchester Polytechnic and Falmouth School of Art, and after a brief period working as a conservator of buildings and sculpture, decided to devote himself fully to creating sculpture. He lives on a farm in Cornwall, UK where he has had his home and studios for over 30 years.

Find out more information on Tim Shaw's website

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