The very Big Yins: Glasgow to get three giant Billy Connolly murals | Well, he always was off-the-wall...

The very Big Yins: Glasgow to get three giant Billy Connolly murals

Well, he always was off-the-wall...

Three giant murals of Billy Connolly are to be installed around his hometown of Glasgow.

Acclaimed artists John Byrne, Jack Vettriano and Rachel Maclean are creating the portraits, which will all be more than 16m (50ft) high

Byrne has created a portrait of the comedian as he is now, approaching his 75th birthday, which is entitled simply Billy Connolly, for a wall in Osborne Street in the city centre. An old friend of the comedian, Byrne called him ‘a one-off… larger than life’.

A Vettriano painting from the comedian’s  World Tour of Scotland series in 1994, featuring a windblown Billy on a storm-lashed coast near John O’Groats,  is entitled Dr Connolly I Presume? and will be showcased in Dixon Street, close to Central Station,

Finally, Maclean has created a digital print of Billy looking regal in an detailed outfit – replete with motifs from his career such as ‘mini bike parked in bum’ epaulettes, a sporran with an ‘aged’ nose sprouting hair and make-up reflecting his famous ‘pale blue Scotsman’ joke – with representations of Glasgow life past and present in the background. Called Big Yin, it will go up in the Gallowgate.

 The artist, who is currently representing Scotland in the Venice Biennale, said: ‘I think there is a kind of responsibility representing Billy because he is so well-known… He is this kind of national treasure within Scotland.’

All the works have been commissioned by BBC Scotland, which has made a documentary about the project – Billy Connolly: Portrait Of A Lifetime –  to be transmitted next month.

The comedian has been fully involved with the work and sat for the artists. He said: ‘I’m probably more famous for being a Glaswegian than anything else I’ve actually done. It’s been great to have been home to take part in this and a real privilege to be part of these artists’ work.’

BBC executive producer Pauline Law added: ‘The project is a tribute to a man, who is an international star and national treasure but who still remains in touch with his Glaswegian roots.

‘He is renowned for his comedy and way with words but we thought it might also be fitting to celebrate his visual and artistic heritage. His artistic side – both as someone who makes artworks and as someone who appreciates art – isn’t so well known but Billy Connolly has undoubtedly become part of the culture of our times; a visual as well as a comedy icon.

‘What comes through loud and clear from the project and the programme is that Billy’s early years in Glasgow fuelled a lot of his comedy, his appreciation of art and his outlook on life. 

‘Through these three artists, we have a fun but also a thoughtful tribute to Billy Connolly, the man and his life.  We will be revealing the portraits – and the work that led up them – in all their glory in the programme.’

After the programme has been broadcast, the original artworks will be showcased at the People’s Palace museum, from June 15.

The BBC will also be inviting budding artists to submit their own portraits of Connolly via social media using the hashtag #BigYinPortrait. The best will be featured in an online gallery

Published: 18 May 2017

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