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


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