Humour is a powerful thing. This Spring we explore how it is used in art. Some of out gallery artists, along with very interesting new ones, give us their take on this subjective and emotive subject.  - Tony Davidson, Gallery Director
19th April - 1st June 2013

The ‘joke’ in art is a tool. It hits a deep and memorable place and we smile at it because we are human. This exhibition brings together painters, printmakers and sculptors whose art uses humour. 

Invited artists include Paul BarnesEduard Bersudsky, Colin BrownHelen Denerley, Steve Dilworth, Michael ForbesHenry FraserDavid KempRobert PowellIngebjorg SmithDavid KempAlan MacDonaldRonald Rae, George Wyllie and Illona Morrice.

Kilmorack Gallery, 
by Beauly,  Inverness-shire, Scotland

Blueprint is a collaboration between a number of Glasgow galleries, archives and museums taking place in February 2013. The event seeks to explore the links between art and engineering, alternative photographic processes and fine art photographic printmaking (printing with ink) and technical drawings.

As part of the festival and exhibition focusing on the engineering and design of Wyllie's artwork was held at the Royal Glasgow INstitute of the Fine Arts.  

George Wyllie: Scul?tor and Navigator
7 February – 9 March 2013

George Wyllie was a remarkable artist who reached out beyond the confines of the art gallery and connected with real people all over the world through his thought-provoking art.

George Wyllie: Scul?tor and Navigator will offer a unique look at the ideas and design of Wyllie’s work. Including materials related to the artist’s famous works, the Straw Locomotive and The Paper Boat, the exhibition will also look at projects conceived by Wyllie that did and did not come to fruition.

As the self-proclaimed “best bogie-builder in Cardonald”, who built his first yacht in the living room of the family home, Wyllie’s first job was an office boy in a shipping company in Govan. He then trained as an engineer with the Post Office before joining the Royal Navy and then working for Customs and Excise.

At the age of 58 he entered into a four-decade long late-flowering career as an artist. The practical skills and knowledge gained throughout Wyllie’s working life were integral to his artistic practice; the scale and ambition of his public artworks relied on principles of engineering and design in their conception and construction.

In 1987, Wyllie attracted international attention with his Straw Locomotive, a 78ft locomotive constructed from steel, straw and chicken wire, which hung from the Finnieston crane in Glasgow before being burned in nearby Springburn in a Viking style funeral.

Two years later, his 82ft Paper Boat, a memorial to the city’s shipbuilding industry, sailed the Clyde, was seen by millions as it traveled around the world from Glasgow to New York and back to Scotland.

Hot on the heels of the award winning George Wyllie Retrospective, co-curated by RGI Curator Lynne Mackenzie, this exhibition has been put together by Mackenzie, who as curator of the George Wyllie Archive has worked closely with his family to make sure the work of one of Scotland’s best-loved artists is kept in the public eye. This exhibition gives a unique insight into the ideas and creations of a man whose lightness of touch and workmanlike approach to his art always gave way to a more serious message.

The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts is an independent organisation promoting and encouraging Scotland’s contemporary art and artists. Established in 1861, the Institute organises the largest annual open exhibition in Scotland as well as a lively programme of exhibitions and events in its city centre gallery.

George Wyllie MBE RSA DLitt RGI was awarded the title of RGI in 1992. The award of RGI is made to artists for artistic merit and their dedication to the Institute.

George Wyllie has been honoured in his home city by a major retrospective exhibition opened last at a civic reception in The Mitchell Library hosted by The Depute Lord Provost of Glasgow, Baillie Gerald Leonard and attended by Rt Hon Alex Salmond, MSP, First Minister of Scotland.

Both men were united in their praise of the Glasgow-born artist, who died in May at the age of 90.
The First Minister said: “He was by any standards an extraordinary man, whose art will be familiar to many generations of Scots, and it is entirely fitting that he is recognised and celebrated with this unique survey of his work right in the heart of the community he held so dear. 

All of the major themes he so skilfully dealt with will be represented in this exhibition, be it birds, boats, spires or engines. I hope that many thousands are able to come to the Mitchell and raise a smile at artwork that is at times playful, and yet speaks to a powerful underlying message about the importance of hard work and community.”

Baillie Gerald Leonard added: “It is fitting that Glasgow should host this celebration of the life and works of one of its favourite sons and that such a detailed and extensive examination of George Wyllie’s career is held in one of the most loved and well used landmarks in the city.  

“This retrospective will enthral and enchant anyone who visits the Mitchell Library to see the hundreds of works on display and will no doubt lead to an even greater and wider appreciation of the unique talent of George Wyllie.”

George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark has been curated by his elder daughter, Louise Wyllie, together with Lynne Mackenzie and Jan Patience. 

The exhibition is the most comprehensive survey of the internationally renowned Glasgow-born artist’s work ever mounted and consists of almost 1000 objects. These range from his earliest drawings made for family when he was serving on HMS Argonaut in The Pacific during the Second World War, to sculptures dating back to the 1960s made from old car bumpers. 

A Bumper Dolphin, has been rescued from a second-hand shop in Dunoon and brought to The Mitchell after the owner of the shop saw a story about ‘lost Wyllie bumper fish’ in his local paper.

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life said: “The George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark celebrates the career of one of Scotland's best loved artists. Behind the mischief and the humour in his work was a serious intellect and real talent which Glaswegians instantly appreciated as his international fame grew.

"“George gave the world social sculptures to remember and now his creative legacy will inspire a new generation through this exhibition and an education programme.”

Louise Wyllie said: “Curating this exhibition of my father’s work has been an emotional experience. He knew about the exhibition happening before he died but it took on a different significance for us as a family after he died.

“It was very poignant for my sister and I going through everything in the family home, which included thousands of artworks, and also a lot of very personal items. We have some of these items in the exhibition, including hand-drawn Christmas cards my dad sent home to my mum and his family back in Glasgow when he was serving with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Appropriately, he had drawn Popeye on them.”

Iain Munro, Director of Creative Development at Creative Scotland commented: “George Wyllie had a talent for connecting people with art.  As one of Scotland’s exceptional artists, his creative legacy will inspire generations for years to come, and fortunately we were able to invest in this wonderful exhibition and community projects before he passed away. The Year of Creative Scotland is about celebrating Scotland’s creativity and what better way than to recognise and celebrate George Wyllie’s work.”

The exhibition also features material which shows the process which led Wyllie to create iconic ephemeral works such as the Straw Locomotive and thePaper Boat.

Unusual items his first ever oil painting, made in 1951, called The Rescue, a cardboard box containing the ashes of the Straw Locomotive (burned in a Viking-style funeral at Springburn after being taken down from the Finnieston Crane), a ‘football team’ (plus steel ball) designed for the Euro ‘96 in Manchester and hand-drawn illustrated story books which Wyllie produced to talk out various projects, including The Paper Boat.

The Whysman Festival received investment through the Year of Creative Scotland’s First in a Lifetime programme to mount this exhibition and project-manage two community based projects; The Big Little Paper Boat Education Initiative which takes in over 90 Clydeside schools and the Big Clyde Question Project involving community groups in Inverclyde.

The Mitchell, North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN
Until 2 February, 2013
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

For further information & hi-res images please contact: 
Jan Patience on


The Whysman Festival has been supported by Creative Scotland’s First in a Lifetime programme. George Wylllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark has been generously hosted in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, by Glasgow Life.
* Creative Scotland is the national development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries. Our vision is that Scotland will be recognised as one of the world’s most creative nations – one that attracts, develops and retains talent, where the arts and the creative industries are supported and celebrated and their economic contribution fully captured; a nation where the arts and creativity play a central part in the lives, education and well-being of our population.
* About the Year of Creative Scotland 2012: The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and is a chance to showcase, celebrate and promote Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found
* The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL.

(Co-ordinated and managed by Media Matters Education Consultancy)

One of the highlights of the Whysman Festival has been the George Wyllie Education Initiative which has been supporting schools as they introduce their pupils to the work of George Wyllie.

George was the archetypal Curriculum for Excellence Man, creating scul?ture, art, music, drama, poetry, prose, and so pupils, in both primary and secondary schools, are now being encouraged to do the same, in Art & Design, Drama, English, Music, Social Studies and Technologies.

Over 90 schools in 9 local authorities have expressed an interest in combining an investigation of the artist with creative activities. 

So what’s happening? Well, school pupils are studying the work of George across all the airts and pairts with the one proviso that they all make a paper boat, which will form part of an Origami Line. One boat per school will come to The Mitchell in Glasgow to be 'docked' in a life-sized paper boat shed at  the George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark. The rest will head to The River Clyde on Hogmanay (George Wyllie's birthday) and be launched from The Riverside Museum as a tribute to George's Paper Boat, which set sail in 1989 from the Clyde and headed off on a voyage which took it to London, Antwerp, New York and back to Scotland.

(Schools featured in the list below will change regularly during the exhibition.)

* In John Paul Academy (City of Glasgow), pupils in S2, S5 and S6 have made their own arrangement (for the ukelele) of George Wyllie’s Paper Boat Song. 

* Inspired by his artwork, S2/S3 pupils taking Drama in St Andrew’s Secondary  (City of Glasgow) have developed and performed a sketch about the Whys Man.

* In West Dunbartonshire, P7b at Kilbowie Primary spent its Art Appreciation Week finding out about George Wyllie, with pupils drawing their own
 interpretations of his scul?tures, writing poems and making their shipbuilding and Singer-inspired paper boat.

* In Inverclyde, P6 in Gourock Primary made even the tiniest boats and P6 in St Ninian’s Primary made their paper boat featuring ‘views of
 Gourock’ where George Wyllie lived and worked.

* The Higher Geography class in Bellahouston Academy (City of Glasgow) is investigating industrial change on Clydeside, using Wyllie images as visual guides and reminders. The class boat is made of an Ordnance Survey map of the area.

* P4 in St Fillan’s Primary, Renfrewshire learned about George Wyllie’s  scul?tures, and 3D artwork. One pupil spent his October week as the WhysMan Junior Reporter and the class is now working on a giant question mark to be installed in the river at Langbank.

* P7 in Braehead Primary shares George’s passion for music and wanted its boat to represent that, as well as the influence Burns had on the artist. The pupils decided to make their boat out of the sheet music for Auld Lang Syne.

Every school taking part is adding a paper boat to the Boat Shed, reflecting the work which its pupils have been doing and as a salute to George Wyllie. The boats currently in the Boat Shed, illustrating a little of what’s happening in schools, are the vessels of the Fleet of the Origami Line...

The internationally renowned artist who gave the world The Paper Boat and The Straw Locomotive is to be honoured in his home city by a major retrospective exhibition.

George Wyllie, MBE, who died in May this year at the age of 90, will be the subject of In Pursuit of the Question Mark, which is being curated by his elder daughter, Louise Wyllie. 

The exhibition will open at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow on 3 November and run until 2 February, 2013.

Glasgow-born Wyllie described himself as a ‘scul?tor’ because, he said, the question mark should always be at the centre. His ambition as an artist, writer and philosopher was to bring art to the attention of the wider world with an engaging, and often humorous take on his chosen subjects.

The former customs and excise officer achieved world-wide recognition with his artwork, which he only started making when he was in his 40s. 

Louise Wyllie said: “My father always said he preferred miscalculations as they offered more promising results. This exhibition is a tribute to this guerilla-style approach to making art and involving as many people as he could in the process.
  “He knew about the exhibition happening before he died and he was happy that his legacy would be celebrated. It mattered to him that ordinary people engaged in his art because it asked big questions.
“At a recent event to celebrate his work in the Scottish Parliament, leading Scottish contemporary artist, Roderick Buchanan, talked about his influence on him and other artists, such as Turner Prize winner, Douglas Gordon.
“Roddy said, George taught us to think big’ and it this spirit we are celebrating in the exhibition.”

In Pursuit of the Question Mark will offer a unique survey of Wyllie’s work and the artist’s family are revealing work which has never been seen in public before, including his earliest attempts at oil painting called The Rescue dating back to 1951. 
Some of the artist’s earliest sculptural work has also been tracked down. This includes a Bumper Dolphin, made from old car bumpers, dating to the 1960s, which was a focal point Dunoon’s Dolphin Bar for many years. There is also a peacock made from washers and scrap metal, which has been been tracked down along with other early pieces of work from the 1960s, in Motherwell’s United Services Club.

All the major themes in Wyllie’s work will be represented in this exhibition, from boats, to burds, to engines, spires and on to the Cosmos, which he focused on in his latter years. The front door of the exhibition will be guarded by a man-sized robin which Wyllie made with his son-in-law in 2005.

The exhibition also features material which shows the process which led Wyllie to create iconic ephemeral works such as the Straw Locomotive and the Paper Boat.

Unusual items also include a cardboard box containing the ashes of the Straw Locomotive (burned in a Viking-style funeral at Springburn after being taken down from the Finnieston Crane) and hand-drawn illustrated story books which Wyllie produced to talk out various projects, including The Paper Boat.

As part of the Big Little Paper Boat schools’ project, which will see schools throughout the west of Scotland studying aspects of Wyllie’s approach to creativity, the exhibition will also boast a life-size boat shed housing paper boats made by Scottish school pupils.

The boats will be taken to The Riverside Museum on New Year’s Eve, the date on which Wyllie would have turned 91, and launched in spectacular style in the River Clyde, but visitors to the exhibition will be encouraged to keep adding to the flotilla of paper boats until the exhibition ends on February 3, 2013. 

The exhibition is part of a year-long festival being presented by The Friends of George Wyllie, a group established by the artist’s two daughters, Louise and Elaine, under the banner, The Whysman Festival.

The Whysman Festival received funding from First in a Lifetime/Year of Creative Scotland 2012 to stage a host of “Wyllie-esque” activities.

 These include a project in Inverclyde, which will see skilled former shipyard workers and community groups, work together to create large Question Marks, which will appear along the Clyde in the last few months of 2012.

Councillor Archie Graham, Chair of Glasgow Life said: “The George Wyllie Retrospective: In Pursuit of the Question Mark celebrates the career of one of Scotland's best loved artists. Behind the mischief and the humour in his work was a serious intellect and real talent which Glaswegians instantly appreciated as his international fame grew.” 
“George gave the world social sculptures to remember and now his creative legacy will inspire a new generation through this exhibition and an education programme.”

The exhibition will be Curated by Louise Wyllie, Lynne Mackenzie and Jan Patience

 The Mitchell, North Street, Glasgow, G3 7DN
 3 November, 2012 – 2 February, 2013
 Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

BCA and Friends of George Wyllie announce funding success for major project.

He gave the world social sculptures to remember. The Straw Locomotive and The Paper Boat, to name but two. 
 Now Glasgow-born artist George Wyllie’s creative legacy is set to inspire a new generation, thanks to a £158,510.00 award from the Year of Creative Scotland, 2012.

The Whysman Festival is one of 24 projects across Scotland to receive a First in a Lifetime award from Creative Scotland as part of its Year of Creative Scotland 2012 celebrations. Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, was in Glasgow earlier this week to announce that the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland have boosted their support for the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 by nearly £2.2m, with total investment now hitting nearly £8m.

Engaging the wider world in his creative vision was always part of the plan for former Customs & Excise officer George Wyllie, now aged 90 and living in a care home for retired mariners in Greenock. 

His career as an artist took off in his 50s once he had retired and for the next four decades he blazed a trail for subsequent generations of artists, in a practice which encompassed writing, visual art and music.

“My art is place specific and people specific,” he proclaimed in The Why?s Man, Murray Grigor’s 1990 film about him and his work. 
In Pursuit of the Question Mark will send sparks flying across the west of Scotland as the art of George Wyllie inspires citizens of all ages to work together to create a spectacular public art event. 

Using new education resources inspired by Wyllie's art, and which focus on the outcomes and experiences of Curriculum for Excellence, pupils from Clydeside schools across all levels will have the opportunity to explore industrial change in their area and learn about skills once used there. 

Echoing the creation of Wyllie’s famous Paper Boat, the young people will create a flotilla of Origami Line paper boats. Activities inside The Big Little Paper Boat Shed will form a major part of a George Wyllie retrospective at The Mitchell, Glasgow from 3rd November 2012 - January 31 2013.
Wyllie’s abiding concern for loss of skills once used in Scotland's heavy industries will also raise up a clarion call to action for unemployed and retired skilled workers to engage with disadvantaged members of communities in Inverclyde.

These stalwarts of the shipyards will help create two giant question marks hanging simultaneously from the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow and from Greenock’s Titan Crane, as well as a seascape of varying sized question marks appearing and disappearing on the tidal flow at Port Glasgow. 
The grand finale of both The Whysman Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland 2012 will be a fireworks party at The Riverside Museum on Hogmanay 2012 (George’s 91st birthday) at which when thousands of BIG little paper boats will be launched on the Clyde and the BIG question marks will be ceremonially burned.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said: "Throughout the Year of Creative Scotland 2012, people and visitors in every corner of Scotland are being encouraged to see, experience and contribute to Scotland's rich, vibrant culture.

"We have experienced an overwhelming level of interest in the Year of Creative Scotland's funding programmes, demonstrating the remarkable impact that the Year is having on Scotland's communities.

"Supported initiatives, like the Big Little Paper Boats project, are helping to showcase, celebrate and promote Scotland's cultural and creative strengths. I am pleased to announce today, that a further £2.2 million will enable the expansion of this important work - taking the total support for the Year to almost £8 million."

Kenneth Fowler, Director of Communications at Creative Scotland, said: “The staggering response we’ve received to the Year of Creative Scotland is proof of what a creative nation Scotland is. It is with great delight we’ve been able to increase the budget, allowing us to take forward even more inspiring and engaging projects.

“This announcement sees the creation of an inspiring range of events that will offer people across the country unique experiences to join in the celebrations of Year of Creative Scotland 2012. George Wyllie’s project on Hogmanay is one of many exciting ways to celebrate the end of the year, but its legacy will continue on towards Homecoming 2014 and beyond”

Wyllie’s daughter, Louise Wyllie, the driving force behind The Whysman Festival said: “My father always said his art was place specific and people specific and for him, engaging with ordinary people through his work was what it was all about. 

“So far, he has lived through 90 fantastically creative years in Scotland, bringing social sculptures such as The Paper Boat and The Straw Locomotive to the wider world's attention. We look forward to building on this legacy, thanks to this First in a Lifetime award.”


* George Wyllie, MBE, born December 31 1921, born in Shettleston, Glasgow, formerly Customs & Excise officer, Greenock

* Work exhibited: UK, Europe, India, and the US. Monumental scul?tures permanently installed in urban settings world-wide. 

* Whys? Man: Wyllie places question mark at centre of everything. His works asks audience to do the same. (Also title of 1990 film about the artist by Murray Grigor)

* Due to funding by Creative Scotland, his work and legacy will now be explored and experienced by a new generation of Scots. (First in a Lifetime)

* Education Initiative: Up to 575 schools in Clydeside local authorities will be provided with resources and CPD opportunities in order to provide pupils, at all levels of Curriculum for Excellence, with the opportunity to investigate Wyllie's work in depth and to create their own... The BIG Little Paper Boat Project
* Education resources, including videos and digital images of Wyllie's work, will be provided online, and legacy resources will be made available to all local authorities in Scotland

*  School pupils' work will be featured in the retrospective at The Mitchell from 3 November 2012 – 31 January 2013

* Community Initiative: Unemployed, employed and retired skilled workers from Clydeside will engage with disadvantaged members of communities in Inverclyde to help create two giant question marks which will hang from the Finnieston Crane in Glasgow and the Titan Crane in Greenock, as well as a seascape of question marks in Port Glasgow... The Big Question Marks

* Up to 32 question marks will be created and hang from the structures

* Around 30 participants will work intensively over a two-month period, developing new skills

* Documentary film of the community initiative to be created as a legacy resource

*  Community work will be featured in the retrospective at The Mitchell from 3 November 2012 – 31 January 

Hogmanay 2012

* Whysman Festival and Year of Creative Scotland 2012 Finale on George Wyllie's 91st birthday.

* Flotilla of paper boats created by young people to be launched on the Clyde on Hogmanay 2012, Wyllie's 91st birthday

* The Question Marks created in the community initiative will be set alight in a Viking Funeral, echoing ceremonial burning of The Straw Locomotive in 1988

* Event will be filmed and archived online 

* The Whysman Festival is taking  place during 2012 and has been instigated by The Friends of George Wyllie, set up by Louise Wyllie and Elaine Aitken to promote and protect their father’s legacy. 

The Whysman Festival headed to George's old stomping ground for an event organised by artists Matt Baker and Tara Beall of Nothing About Us Without Us Is For Us, working in tandem with The Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI). 

George was born in Shettleston, but raised in Craigton, Govan, and spent his formative years in the shadow of the shipyards, so he has a very strong connection to the area.

The night was MC'd by Liz Gardiner of Fablevision, a social media enterprise before the phrase social media had even been coined. Liz has know George since she was a girl as her dad played in George's band and as she revealed on the night, she has worked with him on many a George-ish project...

'Some Questions' would have delighted him in so many ways... the plan was to show three films; Murray & Barbara Grigor's 1990 film The Why?s Man, Cinema Action's 1971 film on the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In & The Govan Raid, a film of a publish art event by Matt Baker in 2011.

There was also an illustrated talk by historian Tim Clarkson, author of Men of the North, about Govan's long-lost Doomster Hill.

It was great to see The Whys? Man film on a big(ish) screen. You take in so much more. Everyone nodded in agreement when Liz said afterwards that the part which always affects her, is the scene where cranes topple to a soundtrack of elegiac music alongside the voice of the late Rev Norman Orr, chaplain for the shipyards of Glasgow and the man who blessed George's Paper Boat in 1990.

Tim Clarkson's talk, all about Govan as the ancient seat of the Kings of Strathclyde and the part in which Doomster Hill - a strange cake-like grassy mound - played in their rise and fall.

Matt Baker described it this way in the Nothing About Us Without Us blog: 
"There we were, about 30 of us, innocently watching Murray and Barbara Grigor's film about George Wyllie (The Why?s man)...then listening to Tim Clarkson's evocation of Govan's Doomster Hill - then Wham! before we knew it we were all pitched into an impassioned collective cry for Govan's history to be recognised in the future. There we were - resolving to make representation to the powers that be....even a communitbuy-out of Water Row was discussed.This revolutionary zeal was then further inflamed by Cinema Action's 1971 film about the Upper Clyde Shipbuilder's 'work-in'  UCS1"
You can see Matt's blog here:

Matt Baker's Govan Raid film can be viewed here: