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Jan Patience: Inner child reveals a mature artistic output

© SYSTEMWillie Wawa, artist
Willie Wawa, artist

In January last year, Willie Sutherland turned 50 while receiving treatment for alcohol addiction.

As part of his therapy, he was encouraged to channel his inner child. For Sutherland, who had been a dreamy and artistic wee boy, obsessed with drawing, dressing up and telling stories through his toys, it was a lightbulb moment.

Using old family photos, he created a doll’s house crammed with rooms where figures and pets caught up in playful scenes. Sutherland used cardboard boxes, used to pack up his late mother’s home, to make the house.

Self Portrait as Doll’s House, 2021, was the result. It’s currently on show alongside a series of large colourful oil paintings charting a version of Sutherland’s inner life at French Street Studios in Glasgow’s East End.

In Origin Of WA – Before The Mask, Sutherland explores emotions and behaviours he encountered without alcohol to help him get through the days.

Running through his exhibition – through paintings, T-shirts and posters – is the slogan Human For Life; a term coined by Sutherland as a riposte to the idea of the old cliche that “a dog is for life not just for Christmas”.

Sutherland’s giant, gaily coloured canvases work brilliantly in this raw industrial space; a former dye works. Sutherland says he drew the scenes – featuring a character called Bob – in chalk on canvas before colouring them in using blocks of paint.

There is a naive, childish quality to Sutherland’s paintings. His characters have featureless faces, but underlying it all is an articulation of the quiet despair many of us feel as we travel through life trying to make some sense of everyday chaos.

The Origin of WA – Before The Mask takes the landscape of childhood and early adulthood and gives it form using playful scenes which often tip into the surreal. Like life, really…

The exhibition ends today, but hop to williewawa.com to immerse yourself in this restless creative soul’s artistic output to date.


To mark its 50th anniversary, the Scottish Pottery Society has mounted 50 Pots at Maryhill Burgh Halls, Glasgow. The show harks back to a time when Glasgow’s skyline was populated by kiln chimneys.

Ceramics on display represent nearly 250 years of ceramic production in Scotland, from 1748 when Delftfield pottery was established, to 1982, when Scotland’s last industrial pottery, Govancroft, closed its doors. 50 Pots also includes a contemporary response to our pottery heritage, by students at City of Glasgow College.