When Jill Gerber, who runs Glasgow's Compass Gallery, talks about swaying as she stands in front of a Helen Flockhart painting, I know exactly what she means.

Flockhart's new works pulse with an intense mixture of pattern and colour, coupled with imagined scenes which intrigue and occasionally disturb. Technically, as she matures as an artist (she recently turned 50), Flockhart just gets better and better. Imaginatively, she has always soared, but there is something deeper and more personal in this latest collection.

Flockhart's last solo show in Glasgow was with Compass in 1999. She first exhibited in their annual New Generations survey of fresh graduates after being spotted by Gerber and her late father, Cyril, in 1984 at her Glasgow School of Art degree show.

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The title painting of this new body of work, Swan Like, is a belter. It depicts three swans, one on top of the other, curving into each other and framed against a background of dense foliage. At the bottom is a red-haired woman (a recurring motif in red-haired Flockhart's paintings) in a diaphanous white dress, echoing the lines and curves of the swans, with their intricately linked feathers. The swan hovering above the woman is turning its beak slightly towards her open mouth.

There are so many layers to this painting - metaphorically and physically - that it is difficult to begin to dissect it. Which is where the swaying comes in.

"People ask me if I paint from dreams," Flockhart says. "But I don't. Sometimes I paint difficult things and sometimes I paint joy. I put things into my work which I have difficulty talking about, even to Peter [her husband, artist Peter Thompson]. I can't believe it's not obvious to people what they mean, but I know from what people tell me that it's not obvious."

As Flockhart admits, she has always struggled with shyness, and one of the paintings in this exhibition, Wallflower, is an intensely personal work which reflects this crippling sense of otherness. Set against a luminous cityscape, another red-haired female figure in a plain black, almost Puritanical dress looms larger than life in the right-hand side of the painting. Hands by her side, she is awkward and uncomfortable; a nervous, eager-to-please smile playing around her lips.

The figure looks on as several groups of men greet each other enthusiastically. Droplets of saliva drip from some of their mouths, but Flockhart states that this is not a sexual thing. It denotes, she says, their pleasure in greeting each other; in being part of a crowd. It is as though, by painting her own demons - in the most exquisite fashion - Flockhart is facing them head on.

Organic pattern in nature is important to the way in which her work coalesces. The pattern acts like a kind of meditation; a repetitive act which underpins the painting. It's as though she finds the intricate detail calming, mentally and physically, although according to the artist, she has to get faces right before it all comes together.

Fertility and womanhood are recurring motifs and, as a woman and a mother, I find this connects me to them. Flockhart also draws on a knowledge of history and mythology as a wellspring for her imagination, with influences including Dutch, Flemish and Italian masters, particularly Van Eyck and Rembrandt.

There are collectors all over the UK and beyond who own pieces by Flockhart, yet a search on the BBC's Your Paintings website throws up just nine of her paintings in public ownership. Comparisons are odious, but if I were a curator at Kelvingrove, where the Jack Vettriano exhibition opens this weekend, I would be rooting out all the Helen Flockharts I could find and planning a retrospective now.

Helen Flockhart: Swan Like, Compass Gallery, Glasgow (0141 248 1322, www.compassgallery. co.uk), September 26-October 19