Marian Maguire Herakles dreams of Arcadia

Herakles, or Hercules to the Romans was an important and well-known legend in classical stories. He is famous for having to compete 12 impossible tasks. Maguire reimagines the classic Greek as a colonist in New Zealand, mixing up Greek legends with Māori myths. She has borrowed from historical lithographs, old photographs, reworking images to create a detailed layering of myth and meaning, humour and reinterpretation.

Herakles, the anti-hero in this series, has a set of 12 labours reinterpreted from the classical Greek mythology, now to perform in New Zealand, a country he has just arrived in. Life isn’t so easy for Herakles; his aim is to claim and tame the land. But the process is difficult.

Herakles is not always successful in his tasks. Even though he is physically able, the scale of the job at hand wears him down. Like us, he makes mistakes and doubts his abilities. The Arcadia of his dream is far away, but even though he can look upon his labours with pride, his satisfaction is tinged with disappointment.

Herakles, wearing lion-skin and wielding a club shows he is strong, patient and resilient. He works alone and perseveres to finish the task he has been given, never thinking if what he is doing is wrong or right.

Marian Maguire, Herakles dreams of Arcadia, 2007
Marian Maguire Herakles dreams of Arcadia (2007) from the series The Labours of Herakles (2008) lithograph 17/25 Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Gift of Friends of Aratoi.