Did anyone else watch Billy Connolly: Portrait of a Lifetime on BBC on Saturday night? I came across it by accident as I don’t tend to look at what’s on the telly – I’ve usually got my head buried in words, or at the moment, knitting squares for picnic blankets ready for Spon Spun Festival 2017. At hearing the unmistakable voice of Billy Connolly I looked up at the screen and was wondering whether I would continue to watch when my husband told me what it was about – three artists that I admire were in it! How about that? John Byrne, Rachel Maclean and Jack Vettriano. The knitting got thrust out of sight!
I thought it was great that three very different artists had been commissioned to create his portrait and it was interesting to see how each of them interacted with Billy (can I stop using his surname now?). There was no mistaking the close connection between him and John Byrne and I have to confess to having a lump in my throat throughout much of the programme, but more so during the clips between two old friends.
I thought all three portraits were very well considered and each offer something unique. Vettriano’s reproduction of a film still is a representation of the strength and energy of Billy. Whereby Maclean’s staged photography is a memento to Billy the stage comedian, cleverly brought together in typical Maclean style. Of the three though I was most drawn to Byrne’s portrait which is Billy as himself, not performing. It was interesting when Byrne’s commented “I can see your soul” and it is soul that jumps out of this particular portrait.
No wonder this amazing man was overcome when he saw the portraits for the first time and then again, supersized on the architecture of Glasgow.