Michael Sandle, son of a chief petty officer was born on 18 May 1936. He studied at Douglas School of Art and Technology, Isle of Man from 1951 to 1954 and the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1956 to 1959.
His work emphasises craftsmanship and the search for symbols, rejecting the formalism increasingly common in sculpture of the period. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Sandle worked slowly and obsessively on a small number of separate major pieces. He began with virtually abstract works which in form and in their use of fibreglass and resin were more typical of their period than the large scale and explicit bronze with which this phase of his art culminated.
Following his appointment as professor of sculpture at Pforzheim, Germany in 1973, and at Karlsruhe in 1980, Sandle’s work became more monumental. His desire to work on a grand scale led him to grand single figures and to large public sculptures. He reacted against what he felt to be the lack of craftsmanship and the reductive formalism of contemporary sculpture, producing instead a heroic and public art increasingly inspired by 19th century models. Sandle's ambitions, encompassing the tradition both of Renaissance equestrian sculpture and of forms in movement borrowed from Futurism, emerged with particular clarity in the massive bronze St George and the Dragon (h. 8.5 m, 1987–8; London, Dorset Rise), his first major public monument in England.
The work criticises what Sandle describes as “the heroic decadence” of capitalism, in particular its appetite for global conflict. He has also attacked the media for packaging and sanitising the destructiveness of war. In 1994 Sandle was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.
He has exhibited in numerous group shows in the UK and internationally including the 5th Paris Biennale, 4th and 6th Documenta and Sao Paulo Biennale.
It is my misfortune to see art (read Life) as a conflict, as an enervating struggle against mediocrity: in the first instance my own. We do, however, live in times of stupendous, quite heroic mediocrity. It is more than depressing to see the visual arts contaminated with the 'New Spirit' of cynicism, or, what is even worse,through benign 'democratic' agencies, being turned into a meaningless pap.”Michael Sandle.
Mortality and war are key themes in his work and major large scale commissions include The Malta Siege Bell (Valetta Harbour), Memorial for the Victims of a Helicopter Disaster (Mannheim), and the Seafarers Memorial (London). His work can be found in numerous public collections including Tate, The Imperial War Museum and The Arts Council Collection. In the 2007 Royal Academy Summer exhibition he was awarded the Hugh Casson Drawing Prize for his controversial 'Iraq Triptych' portraying a naked Tony and Cherie Blair being expelled from Downing Street.
Sandle draws no distinction between deliberate acts of savagery and deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire of modern conflict. The theme of mortality has exercised Sandle throughout his career. "I was terrified of death as a child. I worked out all sorts of strategies to get over it”- says the artist. He was a war child, and his family home in Plymouth was bombed during World War II.
His sculptures are full of energetic movement and fervour, the kind of zest that was found in Futurism and Vorticism in the beginning of the century.