It's a wet Wednesday in Paisley town centre and I'm standing outside The Piazza shopping arcade looking at six vividly-colourful Paisley Pattern murals currently lighting up the windows of a former supermarket. John Walter, the London-based artist who created these vinyls, is with me. In his emerald green rimmed specs, bright blue vintage Adidas jacket and technicolour trainers, he is a walking, talking antidote to the dreichness of the day.

All animation and fizz, John is pointing to specific parts of the murals, inspired by his long-standing fasciation with the Paisley pattern. "I've taken all the historical examples of Paisley patterns and thrown them into mix," he explains. "You see mutations at every turn. The pattern is like a fertility symbol. Then it gets copied more and so it goes on."

Passer-by look on askance as he points to particular patterns. "That one is like a spermatozoa, that's vaginal… and look, these could be testes."

I lean in for a closer look, imagining what my late gran, Presbyterian wearer of scone hats and resident of the Renfrewshire town, would have to say about this. But do you know something… he's right! These are six sexy vinyls. (Sorry gran!)

The panels are the gatekeepers of this year's Paisley Art Institute (PAI) annual exhibition, currently lighting up a former supermarket space, which has lain empty for the last two years. Inside, alongside around 500 artworks of all shape, size and type, is another Walter work, The Fourth Wall, which first saw the light of day at Aberdeen's Look Again Festival earlier this year.

The Fourth Wall is four minutes worth of psychedelic trippiness. Walter has placed six revolving blue desk chairs on painted vinyl panels on the floor. On the chairs sit virtual reality headsets adorned by a fabric face of sorts; Paisley pattern hair, boggling felt eyes in a three-way colour suit of orange, purple and yellow with a scarlet wooden pom pom for a nose.

Chaperones in Walter-designed pinnies, help you into the headset and make sure you're safe before you take a deep dive into his 360 degree immersive VR experience. Who needs mind-altering drugs when you can sit in a spinny chair for four minutes and be immersed in Walter's world of high colour, pattern and a soundtrack which rhymes Jacquard with knackered?

Walter was invited to be guest artist at the 131st annual exhibition by PAI's new president, Jean Cameron, a Paisley "Buddie" who grew up in nearby Ferguslie Park. Cameron was the creative force behind the Paisley 2021 City of Culture bid. The collective hopes of many may have been dashed by the failure of this bid but the energy around it has led to a renewed sense of cultural purpose in the town.

Reimagining is quite the buzz word in the creative industries but PAI's hardworking voluntary committee, steered by Cameron, have had to do a power of reimagining this year as their traditional "home" of Paisley Museum and Art Galleries is shut for a major a major refurbishment.

Until the museum reopens in 2022, the committee behind the 143-year-old organisation must keep the art show on the road. This year – for the 131st annual exhibition – the itinerant artists have set up their stall in 3,000 square feet's worth of space in the vacant supermarket unit still known to some as "Prestos".

It's an ambitious piece of programming, but Cameron, who has helped shape the Scottish cultural calendar through her work with Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (GI), Aye Write Book Festival, and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games cultural programme, has form. As does fellow committee member and Paisley Buddie, Steven Thomson, who is creative director and CEO for Outspoken Arts Scotland and former producer of the late-lamented Glasgay! Festival.

In a neat piece of serendipity, the unit at the Gilmour Street entrance to the Piazza stands more or less on the exact spot once occupied by the Paisley Government School of Design. It was here, on November 10, 1876, that Paisley Art Institute was formed by a group of artists. According the first ever annual report of PAI, they were joined by "a number of gentlemen – admirers of Art – having from time to time expressed their opinion that an art society should be established in Paisley."

It might come as a surprise to some that Paisley had its own art school, but in the mid to late nineteenth century, Paisley was a magnet for artists and designers, drawn to the thriving mill town by the opportunities presented there.

Today, PAI's annual exhibition is Scotland's longest running showcase for artists' work. There has been quite a buzz – not to mention record sales – around the opening weekend of the show.

It must have been a daunting task for those hanging this exhibition to know where to start when faced with around 600 works. Luckily, PAI's resourceful committee inherited a hanging system of white boards from their counterpart Glasgow organisation, RGI, who were unable to store them. This provided a canvas on which to work, while Renfrewshire Leisure technicians were on hand to help with the hanging and the lighting system.

The work is displayed more or less by genre; portraits, landscapes, seascapes, floral paintings, still lifes and so on but there are more installations this year, including multi-media work. Barry and the Monster Below by Leila Kleineidam is a stop frame animation work with an eco message which stopped me in my tracks. A fatberg is the congealed matter found in sewers formed by a mash-up of non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and grease. Once you see one fatberg come to life, it stays in your head!

It's a joy to see work like this by young emerging artists alongside the likes of established sculptor, Simon Manby.

As you enter, the first grouping (in what was the bakery section) is work by so-called PAI diplomates. These artists, who have been nominated by fellow artist members within PAI for the honour, include highly collectable painters such as Liz Knox, Robert Kelsey, Alice McMurrough and Charles Jamieson.

The joy of an open exhibition is that you see work by artists whose paintings are sold in high-end galleries, cheek-by-jowl with budding Paisley artists such as Liam McGrady, who has been attending classes run by Made in Paisley. This pop-up art studio, run by PAI's vice president, Caroline Gormley and her artist partner, Sandy Guy, is sending out ripples in the town by offering art classes for all ages and stages.

The gamble to take the PAI annual on the road has paid off. Last weekend – the opening weekend – record attendances and sales were recorded. Always good news for exhibiting artists. Sales figures between the preview events and first weekend of being opened to the public combine to surpass sales over the entire exhibition period last year.

PAI has also joined the Creative Scotland-managed Own Art scheme; which means that anyone falling in love with an artwork will have the chance to pay it off in instalments if they can't live without it.

I wish my Presbyterian scone hat wearing gran was still here to see the wee linocut of the island of Bute – her birthplace – by Alan Richardson I bought for £50. All part of the rich tapestry which has been weaving intricate patterns in Paisley since 1876.

Paisley Art Institute's 131st Annual Exhibition, The Piazza, Central Way, Paisley PA1 1EL,, until October 20, Tue – Sat, 11.30am-5pm, Sun: 12pm-5pm. Closed Monday. Free

Critic's Choice

This year marks the Scottish Glass Society’s 40th anniversary and a host of celebration events and exhibitions have been organised throughout the year. The Society hosted a juried exhibition, On The Edge, at North Lands Creative in Caithness, earlier this summer. This internationally renowned studio and gallery organisation focuses on the production and presentation of contemporary glass and has been a trailblazer for artists working in this medium across the world. This Wednesday, On The Edge transfers to Glasgow for a week.

On The Edge includes work from eighteen artists; Gregory Alliss, Carolyn Basing, Catherine Carr, Hannah Gibson, Siobhan Healy, Jessamy Kelly, Alison Kinnaird, Pinkie Maclure, Brett Manley, Inge Panneels, Lauren Puckett, Annica Sandström and David Kaplan, Cathryn Shilling, Amanda Simmons, Moonju Suh, Laura Turner and Rosheen Young.

North Lands and the Trades Hall were specifically chosen to host On The Edge. North Lands's director, Karen Phillips, was on the jury alongside Catherine Lowe, Chair, Scottish Glass Society and Sarah Rothwell, Curator Modern Contemporary and Design, National Museums Scotland. Sarah Rothwell has also been a curatorial adviser on the


The magnificent Trades Hall in Glasgow is a particularly fitting home for this exhibition. The home of Trades House brings together the different crafts in the city with Glass sitting within the Incorporation of Wrights.

As well as coinciding with Doors Open weekend, the Glasgow exhibition will also include an open exhibition in addition to the juried one. The open exhibition will include works by the Society’s members on the theme of celebration.

Scottish Glass Society's On The Edge and Open Exhibition: Celebration, Trades Hall, Glassford Street, Glasgow, G1 1UH, , Sep 18 to Sep 25, Weekdays 11am-5pm (Thursdays 11am-7pm), Weekend 10am-5pm

Don't Miss

This major exhibition of paintings from the long and creative life of op-art queen, Bridget Reilly, stands out for all sorts of reasons. A bobby-dazzler of a show, which has been years in the making, it spans ten rooms in the Edinburgh's Royal Scottish Academy upper and lower galleries. The artistic life of Riley is laid out for all to see, from lines of development, through seminal works and – in the last rooms – her very early drawings and painting. It might be pricey but it's worth every penny.

Bridget Riley, Royal Scottish Academy, The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, 0131 624 6200, Until September 22. Tickets: £15-£13 (Concessions available)

25 & under: £10-£8.50. Free for Friends of NGoS