Locomotives by George Wyllie
The Park Gallery,
Falkirk, FK1 1YR
25th March - 19th June 2016
Going Loco – George Wyllie Style
EVERY DAY, thousands of commuters whizz past a sculpture of a train at Falkirk High Train Station, but how many know the story behind the work dubbed by its maker, George Wyllie, a Giacometti 0-2-0 Class Locomotive?
Antonine the Legendary Engine was made by the much-loved Glasgow-born artist, who died in 2012. He was commissioned to create the work to mark the 150th anniversary of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway in 1992.
The station, which had opened 150 years earlier in 1842, lies almost half-way between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Wyllie, who had a life-long love of locomotives and engineering, made several train-inspired works during his late-flowering career as an artist. He described the work as a Giacometti 0-2-0 Class Locomotive as a tribute to Alberto Giacometti, one his favourite artists in the surrealist movement.
As well as Antonine, named after the nearby Antonine Wall, Wyllie created the famous Straw Locomotive which hung for six weeks from Glasgow's Finnieston Crane in the summer of 1987.
Now, Wyllie's love of locos is to be celebrated in a special exhibition called Locomotives by George Wyllie, which opens at the Park Gallery, inside Falkirk's Callendar House on Friday 25th March. The exhibition will run until 19th June.
The exhibition will focus on Wyllie’s love of transportation in all its forms and features
works relating to The Straw Locomotive as well as other related sculptures – or scul?tures – as Wyllie referred to his three dimensional works.
He maintained that the question mark should lie at the heart of all art.
Locomotives is being presented by Falkirk Community Trust in partnership with the George Wyllie Foundation. Works have been loaned by the Wyllie family.
Wyllie’s thought-provoking public artworks can be found across Scotland and beyond. From his Clean Sweep in Manchester city centre to the Running Clock outside Glasgow's Buchanan Street Bus Station, they fulfil his own brief that public art should be ‘art that the public cannot avoid’.
According to George Wyllie Foundation curator, Lynne Mackenzie, he had a knack for making the ordinary everyday things around us meaningful.
She explained: "George Wyllie’s art makes us notice the things around us; things that are appearing and things that are disappearing. There is a question mark, real or implied, at the centre of his work that acts as a gateway to social, political and philosophical debate.
"As a boy, George Wyllie was always busy making things, be it a model yacht or airplane or a cart. He described himself as the ‘best bogie-builder in Cardonald’ and he even built a yacht in the living room of the family home when he was a Customs Officer in Northern Ireland in the 1950s.
"Transportation in all its forms – trains, trams, planes, boats and bogies – was a constant theme in Wyllie’s life and inspired many of his artworks.
"This is what we are highlighting in this exhibition. Man and boy, George was fascinated by making things and methods of transportation. It's a fascinating insight into what made him the artist the public came to know and love when he emerged on to the contemporary art scene in middle-age in the 1980s."
George Wyllie trained as an engineer with the Post Office before serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He went on to work for Customs and Excise in Northern Ireland and in Greenock.
He began his late-flowering career as an artist in the 1960s; retiring in 1978, at the age of 58.
Lynne Mackenzie adds: "The practical skills and knowledge gained throughout his 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."
Visitors to the exhibition are being encouraged to seek out Antonine the Legendary Engine at Falkirk High Station after viewing the work in the Park Gallery.
"We'd like people to tweet us or Facebook pictures of Antonine or any other George loco which they come across using the hashtag #GeorgeWyllieLoco," Lynne adds.
The exhibition also coincides with the publication of the first ever biography of George Wyllie, written by his elder daughter, Louise Wyllie, and journalist, Jan Patience.
Arrivals and Sailings: The Making of George Wyllie is published by Polygon on 14th April. To celebrate the launch of the book, Louise and Jan are taking part in a brand new festival called LandWords on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April.
A partnership between The Edinburgh International Book Festival and Falkirk Community Trust, LandWords is a Festival of words and stories based at Falkirk’s Callendar House. It will be held over two weekends in April and May.
The Park Gallery
The George Wyllie Foundation
The George Wyllie Foundation is a registered charity set up to celebrate the life and work of internationally renowned Scottish artist Dr. George Wyllie MBE (1921-2012).
Foundation Trustees: Louise Wyllie, Murray Grigor, David Harding, Peter Theirfeldt, Calvin Gomes, Robert McDowell, Andrew McAvoy, Joan McAlpine, Jan Patience
Curator: Lynne Mackenzie email@example.com
For more information on the life and works of George Wyllie
For more information on the forthcoming biography, Arrivals and Sailings: The Making of George Wyllie (Polygon)
For more information on the LandWords Festival at Callendar House: