Re­mem­ber­ing Llew Sum­mers

Latitude Magazine - - ART -

Called Body and Soul, a bi­og­ra­phy of Llew Sum­mers by John New­ton is due be pub­lished this year, with the launch sched­uled to co­in­cide with an ex­hi­bi­tion of

Llew’s work at The Cen­tral Art Gallery in Christchur­ch, 27 Au­gust – 27 Septem­ber. ‘The ex­hi­bi­tion will be a se­lec­tion of work from through­out his oeu­vre,’ says ex­hi­bi­tion or­gan­iser Jonathan Smart. ‘We plan to present up­wards of 30 works across a range of me­dia, in­clud­ing ce­ram­ics, bronze, stone and wood.’ While some of the pieces will be on loan from pri­vate col­lec­tions, most will be for sale. Along with smaller and medium-sized works in the gallery, there will be a few larger works dis­played out­side. Plan­ning for the ex­hi­bi­tion is in con­junc­tion with John New­ton and Llew’s sis­ter Ur­sula Ryan. ‘We wanted the right sort of oc­ca­sion and the right sort of place in the heart of Christchur­ch to cel­e­brate his prac­tice and co­in­cide with the book launch. It’s fall­ing into place nicely.’ Au­thor John New­ton was the last res­i­dent in the Mount Pleas­ant cot­tage that Llew and his part­ner Robyn Web­ster made avail­able rent-free to fel­low artists and cre­atives.

(Llew built the lit­tle house, along with his own home, us­ing largely se­cond-hand ma­te­ri­als and also cre­ated a beau­ti­ful gar­den at the prop­erty.) At the time, John was work­ing on a book of po­etry for the Uni­ver­sity of Can­ter­bury as an Ur­sula Bethell Scholar. When Llew be­came ill, John then be­came in­volved with writ­ing a bi­og­ra­phy about Llew and his work. ‘It was great to be able to do it and, in a small way, re­pay his gen­eros­ity,’ John says. ‘Even though he was some­one who’d never had much in the way of grants or in­sti­tu­tional back­ing him­self, he was an ex­tremely open-handed per­son. The way he acted as a pa­tron to­wards younger artists was an ex­tra­or­di­nary thing. He lived quite fru­gally him­self but was very gen­er­ous to­wards other peo­ple.’ John re­mem­bers Llew as an in­cred­i­bly hard worker who, when he put his work down, knew how to en­joy him­self. ‘He was so good at switch­ing from one mode to an­other and was so in­spir­ing to be around. I loved that about him.’ As an artist, John says Llew forged his own re­la­tion­ship with the pub­lic that was in­de­pen­dent of the arts es­tab­lish­ment. His work was de­signed to be ex­pe­ri­enced di­rectly, not to be in­ter­preted or re­viewed. ‘Peo­ple really ap­pre­ci­ated that di­rect­ness and the ex­tra­or­di­nary vi­tal­ity and pos­i­tive en­ergy of both Llew and his work.’ He leaves a rich legacy of in­stal­la­tions in pub­lic spaces and at var­i­ous out­door sculp­ture shows and venues, in­clud­ing Tai Tapu Sculp­ture Gar­den.

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