Skip to main content

George Wyllie: A Life Less Ordinary


Collins Gallery, University of Strathclyde
March 10th-April 21st 2012
4 stars
Environmental art may be all the rage these days, but, as with the soon 
to be moth-balled Collins Gallery, George Wyllie was way ahead of the 
curve. While best known for huge public spectacles The Straw Locomotive 
and The Paper Boat, as well as fully-fledged stage show with actor Bill 
Paterson, A Day Down A Goldmine, this huge archive of small works and 
papers, posters and other ephemera taps into the ever enquiring mind of 
the now ninety-year old polymath, who was reimagining Glasgow long 
before the cultural tsars moved in to take the credit.

Having first exhibited his self-semanticised Scul?tors at The Collins 
in 1976, with other shows following in 1981 and 2005, it's fitting that 
the venue's last ever show show be the launchpad for the inaugural 
event of the Glasgow-wide Whysman Festival to celebrate Wyllie's nutty 
professor-like take on the world.

Perennially captured in perma-smiling photographs sporting overalls and 
bunnet, Wyllie may appear somewhere between Oor Wullie, Tom Weir and 
Ivor Cutler, but file him as a ukulele-playing novelty act at your 
peril. In his use of outdoor spaces, a (post) industrial tool-kit and 
playfully serious critique of capitalism in A Day Down A Goldmine, 
captured on film by Murray Grigor, Wyllie is an equal to and as deeply 
serious as Joseph Beuys,  with whom he worked, Ian Hamilton Finlay, and 
indeed Angus Farquhar's NVA Organisation, who picked up his mantle.

The Great Bum Steers that have allowed Strathclyde University 
pen-pushers to close down the Collins and the Scottish Government to 
introduce Public Entertainment Licence legislation that would 
effectively outlaw Wyllie's work should be noted. This lovingly 
gathered and utterly humane collection is a serious word to the Whys.

The List, March 2012

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …