ART TURNS TIDE; Clyde installation making its mark.
WHEN Inverclyde artist Alec Galloway found himself waist deep in freezing water on the banks of the lower Clyde, he took some solace from the fact that he wasn't the only one.
The late George Wyllie was with him. Alec considered the influential sculptor, who died in May this year following a short illness, as a friend, as well as a source of inspiration.
Both artists shared similar philosophies about art as something that should be available to the everyday public and not just those who seek it out in galleries.
So when Alec was asked by the Friends of George Wyllie to get involved in the year-long celebration of his work in his 90th year, he jumped at the chance.
Not least because it would give him the opportunity to prove himself to the revered sculptor, wherever he is.
Now his work, as part of the over-arching celebration of George's legacy in his 90th year, the Whysman Festival is being considered for the community and visual arts categories at the Creative Scotland awards.
Alec said: "I came up with the idea of having these question marks all along the shore of Port Glasgow and Langbank. They would appear and disappear with the tide.
"It was a throwback to a project I did in 2006, which involved a series of installations on the Clyde.
"I bumped into George shortly after that and he told me he thought the idea was great but that I hadn't quite pulled it off.
"He said he felt sorry for me. So that was bitter sweet, you might say, but funny too. It was at the back of my mind since then and I've always thought that I'll show that aul' b****** that I can do this properly."
Working with welders who built boats on the river, Alec also recruited a group of unemployed and retired Inverclyde folk to create a series of question marks - an important motif in George's work.
They've been popping up in recent weeks on the historic wooden pillars of the banks of the Clyde, themselves evoking the era of ship building.
They are the remnants of 'timber ponds', where wood from Canada and America was stored and seasoned in the 1800s to supply the demands of the then-thriving industry.
Now, though, they're storing the latest batch of George Wyllie's question marks.
Alec said: "I could hear him over my shoulder when I was up to my a*** in freezing-cold water as the tide was coming in, and I was fixing these things in the timber ponds. He was definitely there in spirit."
The ongoing installation is just one of a multitude of Wyllie-inspired projects taking place to celebrate his work in his 90th year. An exhibition in Glasgow's now-defunct Collins Gallery was the precursor to a full retrospective at The Mitchell, which opens later this month.
As part of the Whysman Festival, established by his family, there are schools' projects developing across the west coast and a massive question mark - currently being fabricated by Ferguson Shipbuilders in Port Glasgow - is to be hung from the Finnieston Crane in coming weeks.
It will occupy the site of his most famous work, 1987's straw locomotive, which, along with his globe-trotting paper boat, did what he wanted art to do - communicate with people.
He later burned it on the site of the former locomotive works in Glasgow (now a monolithic supermarket), revealing the ubiquitous question mark.
Jan Patience, chair of Friends of George Wyllie, said: "The locomotive was so effective because it was suspended over the Clyde at a time when engineering and industry had also been suspended. All this creative energy had gone, and he was asking where.
"He described himself as a scul?tor, spelt with a question mark instead of a 'p' because he said the question was always too important to be left to the end. It was so important to him that art was in the community, not just galleries.
"He thought the arts could help people escape being ground down and isolated - help them feel part of the world.
"We're hoping that people will see these question marks in the river and go off and find out why. He always wanted people to ask questions, wanted them to agitate."
THE Creative Scotland Awards will be held on December 13 at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Check out the categories and nominate by 5pm on October 12 at www.celebratingcreativity.co.uk CATEGORIES ? 2012 Scottish Film/TV Award ? Best Visual Award ? Creativity in Schools Award - Sponsored by Education Scotland ? Best New Talent Award ? Creative Business Award ? Scotland's Traditional Arts, Scots and Gaelic Award ? 2012 Music Award ? 2012 Theatre Award ? Community Arts Award ? Literature Award ? Scottish Arts Ambassador Award ? The 2012 Year of Creative Scotland Event - Sponsored by Event Scotland ? For further information on sponsorship of the awards, contact Mairi on 0141 309 4909.
INSPIRATION Z George Wyllie
SUCCESS ZArtist Alec Galloway
CHALLENGE Z Colourful question marks emerging from the Clyde at Langbank