In 2012 Llew made a large bronze, Encircling the Baroque comprising a circle of life; four human bodies flowing in a circle. Returning to his other major preoccupation – wings – either solitary, on angels, horses or, more conventionally, on birds, he has now scaled up the smaller work, Birds of a Feather which was first carved in wood, and later cast in bronze, into another circle of life – this major bronze work: Peace.
The critic John Ruskin wrote: "For nature is all made up of roundnesses, not the roundness of perfect globes, but of variously curved surfaces. Boughs are rounded, stones are rounded, cheeks are rounded, and curls are rounded; there is no more flatness in the natural world than there is vacancy. The world itself is round and so is all that is in it, more or less, except human work which is often very flat indeed." (The Elements of Drawing). No such charge can be levied here – Peace is a work that speaks of the plump roundness of that avian symbol of love and peace: the dove, within a large circle of roundness.
Doves are most often associated with the concepts of pacifism and civil peace, and Llew is himself a pacifist, coming from a family with a heritage of pacifism; his mother was imprisoned during the Second World War for demonstrating against the war when it was illegal to do so. It is natural then that this trio of bids is emblematic of his belief in peace as the greater, and only, solution. As with Picasso, the work takes a stand for life against death and for peace against war.
Peace is a 2-tonne bronze measuring 2650x2100x1400mm and is currently exhibited in Colombo St, Christchurch.
The Power and the Glory (2013)
The earthquakes that devastated large areas of Christchurch in early 2011, not only shook up the ground, but altered many people’s perceptions of life and its stability. For many it was the most tangible experience of the knife-edge that is life and coming face to face with that has led to some deep-seated trauma. In a flight or fight response, some have left the city and the country, while others demonstrate their resilience by riding the waves of the thousands of aftershocks and getting on with their lives as best they can. For an artist this obviously includes trying to respond to the disaster and create art that somehow deals with it.
In this symbolist work, Llew portrays nature as a horse, towering over a small human, and poised on hind legs ready to crush, if not the man, at least the earth. The man stands his ground, looking up in amazement. The beauty of the horse defuses the otherwise overwhelming fear and there is awe in the contemplation of the sheer force of nature unleashed. The man’s hands are slightly outstretched – are they ready to embrace, or just firmly fixed in a stoic gesture waiting for the inevitable? The horse’s rounded belly is echoed by that of the man and they are thus connected as fellow creatures who inhabit the same environment.
The work was originally carved in wood, before being cast in bronze and is approximately 625mm high.
To the End of Love (2013)
With this 2012 work Llew has come full circle to his first preoccupation as an artist; man and woman together. The great television playwright Dennis Potter talked about “ploughing my little patch” in connection with his writing as he continued to re-revisit and explore the universal themes that interested and drove him. Perhaps it is true that all artists have a piece of ground – a patch – that is theirs and that, in one form or another, they are compelled to continuously find new ways of treating.
So, Llew’s themes are men and women, their need for one another and the pleasure and joy that is a most welcome part of that equation. The connection of human beings to one another is a high point in their existence – the importance of which was emphasised by British novelist EM Forster in the epigram at the beginning of his fine novel Howard’s End: Only connect.
This is not to leave out spirituality from the mix and for Llew the Lord of the Dance is self-evidently present in this couple’s embrace. It is a work that is both joyous and full of engagement as the couple is absorbed in their dance of life with total commitment both to the dance and to each other – to the end.
It is now, with the maturity of many years of sculpting, as demonstrated by the sureness of line and certainty of modelling, that such a work can be scaled from its initial creation as a small ceramic into a work of such compelling substance and stature. The bronze stands just over 2 metres in height, is 1400 mm wide and 900 deep; the title of the work comes from the Leonard Cohen song, Dance Me to the End of Love.
Encircling the Baroque (2012)
Encircling the Baroque takes as its starting point the collaboration between the painters Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder in works such as the Madonna in a Garland of Flowers where Rubens’ figures are encircled by Brueghel’s wreath of flowers.
These famous 17th-century painters painted in the Baroque style, using exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur. These terms are well suited to this work, though in this case the garland of flowers has been transformed into a circle of life, a transition in keeping with Llew’s preoccupation with and enjoyment of the human figure; flowing and connecting in a wave-like motion. The two female and two male figures in this human wreath are equally visible from both sides of the work which was first made as a small marble sculpture. The bronze is 2300x1950x550mm.
Ariel is a further development of Llew’s fascination with winged forms; both for their simple beauty and for their angelic – or spiritual – resonance. In this case it is the sheer beauty of the wing form – abstracted from its connection to a body – that has been the starting point for its creation. Ariel , a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a spirit of the air – and this wing, though unattached, or detached, from a bird or angel requires air to bring it fully to life, to become aerial / airborne, to enable it to fly. Extremely tactile and of magnificent stature, it seems ready and capable of flight. It wants to soar and is a metaphor for humanity which, without air, cannot exist and which also aspires to rise above the earthly to connect with its spirituality. The work is 2300x1700x66mm and is cast in bronze.
The Burden of Wings
The Burden of Wings continues Llew's recent exploration of wing forms: sometimes a single wing, but more often combined with the human form. The angel bears the moral weight of her wings and the wings in some sense could represent the cross.
To have been made an angel brings with it a moral imperative to take an ethical position - to stand up for what is right. This particular angel, unlike most seen historically in painting and sculpture, does not have arms; the wings have fully taken the place of those, in this case, superfluous appendages.
The work is in Takaka marble and is around 1300x600x500mm.
Hope With Wings