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CUP book

Llew Summers: Body and soul

17 October 2023

By John Newton


August 2020
200pp, jacketed hardback
250 x 220mm
ISBN: 978-1-98-850314-1

Awarded The Wily Publications Prize for Canterbury/West Coast Non-fiction in 2020 NZSA Christchurch Branch Heritage Literary Awards

Llew Summers (1947–2019) was a rarity in the art world – a figurative artist in a scene dominated by abstract practices. Llew Summers: Body and soul depicts the work and life of one of New Zealand’s most recognisable sculptors, a man of great warmth and astonishing vitality, whose works are daring, sensual and provocative.

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John Newton takes us from Summers’ beginnings as a self-taught artist, through his relationships and family life, to his success as a highly visible sculptor with works found in public spaces throughout New Zealand.

We follow Summers’ progression as an artist, a true independent, working outside the hierarchies of the art world. His early monumental works in concrete made him a public fixture, with themes of nurture and nature, sexuality and solidity seen in his idealised female forms. As he discovered carving in wood and marble, the work became more subtle and increasingly dynamic. From the early 2000s, following his first trip to Europe, religious imagery entered Summers’ work in ways that extended both his visual and thematic range, and introduced a more overtly spiritual element. His later career features depictions of Christ, angelic winged figures and large, ambitious works in bronze.

Illustrated with more than 200 photographs, including newly commissioned images of Summers’ works, Llew Summers: Body and soul is a joyful record of a life in sculpture and a testimony to the value of public art.

John Newton was Llew Summers’ close friend during the last two years of the sculptor’s life. A poet, critic and cultural historian, his earlier books include The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem commune (VUP, 2009), and Hard Frost: Structures of feeling in New Zealand literature 1908–1945 (VUP, 2017). He is the 2020 Robert Burns Fellow.

Llew Summers: Body and soul is published with the support of Creative New Zealand.

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