Llew Summers: Sculptor extraordinaire
Throughout its history, Linwood students have made their mark nationally and sometimes internationally in many realms of endeavour. Their contribution has been particularly significant in shaping New Zealand’s cultural scene. The school has produced renowned musicians, actors, artists, playwrights and sculptors. 2019 saw the passing of Llew Summers, a sculptor whose bold and distinctive work enlivened any space into which it was placed. Llew attended Linwood High School from 1961-1963. He was a larger than life figure, and was always keen to challenge the ‘norms ‘ of the age, whether in politics, architecture or culture.
Llew trained as a builder, and used those skills to design and build his own unique house on Mt Pleasant. Building may have initially paid the bills, but it was not Llew’s passion. Sculpture was, and he chose to follow that passion despite the hardships and the risks. Encouraged by his parents, and by another ex-Linwood arts luminary, Tony Fomison, Llew held his first public exhibition in 1971.
Like their creator, Llew’s sculptures are ‘out there ‘ and make a statement. They are bold and simple, showing energy, strength and a love of life. For him, an intellectual response to works of art was less important than an emotional one. Sometimes this response could be very strong indeed. One of his first public works, Tranquillity, was placed outside the Timaru library in 1981. It was soon vandalised with red paint and led to a stream of letters in the local paper.
Llew was comfortable working with a range of materials, from wood to bronze, marble and concrete. Perhaps his most important commission came in 2000, to sculpt the Stations of the Cross for the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Llew’s decision to sculpt Jesus nude on the cross caused outrage in some quarters, leading him to add a plastic loin cloth – which, he noted, ‘would fall off in time.’ Efforts are currently being made to preserve these sculptures as the cathedral is deconstructed.
His work can be seen in locations throughout New Zealand and especially in and around Christchurch. One of his largest works, Follow Me, is in the Tai tapu sculpture garden, and another large work can be seen on Ensors Road, just a block from Linwood College.
Llew probably had a bigger impact on the cultural and physical environment of Christchurch than any other Linwood student. His work is his legacy.
John Newton, Llew Summers, Body and Soul
The Press, 21 September 2019