Jan Patience, co-author of Arrivals and Sailings: The Making of George Wyllie is speaking at Faclan on Thursday 26 October at 5pm. We caught up with Jan to hear a bit more about George Wyllie.
Year’s Faclan Theme is Ultima Thule: a place beyond the borders of the known world or the “unknown”, Tell us a little about how your work relates to this year’s theme.
Arrivals and Sailings: The Making of George Wyllie tells the story of how an ordinary boy from a working class background in Glasgow pushed out beyond the boundaries of the everyday. Always a creative person, he found his feet as an artist in his 60s when most people are contemplating a life pottering in the garden tending roses. His playfully serious work always asked questions of the viewer. George’s early life on the ocean wave as a young sailor during WW2, was to inform all his later work. He witnessed first-hand the D-Day Landings, the liberation of Greece from Nazi control, the chaos of war in the Pacific and the devastation wreaked by an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. In his 70s and 80s, he returned again and again to a search for equilibrium in nature. His last work was centred around the idea of the Cosmic Voyage. “I have a notion that the time has come for the earthbound human race to evolve beyond the evolution we have so far shakily achieved,” he declared. Ultima Thule is very George Wyllie.
What are you most looking forward to about visiting Lewis?
I am looking forward to the Festival, obviously. Also visiting the Colin Mackenzie exhibition and revisiting some of my childhood haunts from holidays in the 1970s in Harris and Lewis with my family. Oh, and I want to see George’s Palm Tree Post Box!
Where do you go when you want to go “off the Map”?
I read. But in physical terms, I’d probably say that I like to climb to the top of a hill, breath in unpolluted air and pull myself back to the realisation that we are all just tiny blips in time and space.
What was the last book you read?
I proof-read my friend Martin MacIntyre’s first novel in English, A Summer in South Uist. Martin is an award-winning Gaelic writer. I am half-way through The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh.
Who is your favourite writer?
That’s a hard one. I love Bernard McLavery’s writing. So spare and the detail is delicious. If pushed, I would say Anne Tyler.
What for you is the easiest and/or the most difficult part of writing?
The hardest part if sitting down and getting on with it! If I have a deadline that puts the fear in me…
Do you have any new projects coming up?
I have a couple of ideas-in-progress. Ever the journalist, if someone gives me a deadline I’ll crack on with it!