Neil MacPherson, Glasgow Print Studio; Millie Frood, Gerber Fine Art;

Colour in Landscape, Main Fine Art; Terry Frost, Adrian Heath, Barbizon

Gallery, Glasgow.

''COLOUR? It's a freedom. You shouldn't be scared to use it. It should

shine out.'' Neil MacPherson was talking to me about his pictures at

Glasgow Print Studio amid the glare of TV lights which only served to

emphasise his point. High key, hot yellow, red, orange and green paint

clogs the skin of his archetypal primitive beasts, squint-eyed and

baleful under azure skies.

Tiny stylised upturned tripod cherry trees cast scorching purple

shadows. Caithness seers and ploughmen or Italian peasant women arrayed

in decorative costume people his naive, improbable landscapes, their

stolid presence a sign of the timeless continuity of nature. It's as

though these figures have been at one with their surroundings, rooted in

colour-saturated scenery since the world began. Yet MacPherson's

pastoral idylls, so lush, so vivid, are also shot through with ambiguity

and menace. A snake hovers mid-air over a peacefully sleeping poet.

Split personality invades the field and farmhouse. A seer lies in the

open, his head resting on a magic blue stone, foreseeing disaster to the

local laird in the shape of a galloping horse which forms and reforms as

transient clouds along the horizon. At sunset, The Man Who Knew

Everything and Nothing, sits in his parlour, his abstracted facial

features testimony to his divided self.

In the 10 years since graduating from Glasgow School of Art,

MacPherson has lived in Caithness and Italy, attracted by their light

and colour. At Glasgow he painted in the then usual safe, subtle tones.

''We had a tutor, Sinclair Thomson. One day he asked me why I painted

everything grey. 'You're young, you should enjoy life. Use colour and

build on that.' So I did.'' Legends and myths from both countries have

also influenced his work. Caithness is a stronghold of the strict Free

Church. ''The Bible still goes on the kitchen table on Saturday night

and stays there till Monday morning.'' Italy is, of course, firmly

Catholic. MacPherson has painted many images of these Readers of the

Book. Yet paradoxically, a strong belief in second sight, dreams, myths

and magic is active in both countries. The tradition of pushing a piece

of metal into a tree for luck applies in Scotscalder as much as L'Aquila

and is recorded in a large oil, Leading a Horse Through the Forest of


Queen of a Small Country, unquestionably his best picture yet,

epitomises the new bold confidence which has taken MacPherson into the

top league. A couple of years ago it seemed he was stuck in a

remunerative rut. A slight move towards abstraction and symbolism has

introduced a healthy jarring note, disrupting an all-too-comfortable,

attractive harmony. The assimilation of fourteenth-century Sienese

Painting and 1980s' Neo-Expressionism, combined with Glasgow eyes and

Caithness soul, gives these paintings their impressive quality.

Is MacPherson a reincarnation of Millie Frood? Frivolous? Maybe. But

an uncanny similarity of subject and palette links these two, born 54

years apart. In her 40s in the 1940s, Frood was a founder member of the

independent New Art Club and, together with Fergusson, Morris, Bain,

Adler, Herman, Annand, and Macdonald, revitalised the Glasgow scene.

These intensely rich painterly oils of rural gleaners, cows, rooks,

haystacks and urban workers at their tea-break of the ice-cream stall,

throw fresh light on Glasgow's stylistic tradition.

The resurgence in all the creative arts in Glasgow in the unpropitious

1940s was well-documented by Dennis Farr in his 1968 Scottish National

Gallery/Arts Council exhibition, New Painting in Glasgow 1940-46. Here

he records the New Art Club's hope that ''the old Celtic love of colour

and pattern may again find expression in modern guise.'' The strong

expressionist current that had its source in Van Gogh inspired Frood to

experiment with a violent idiom where pigment is thickly laid and the

forms energetically distorted. Even now, the work is powerful. In 1940

it must have shocked. A consistently gifted colourist, she died, aged

88, last year. At Gerber Fine Art, Frood is placed in context together

with 16 of her contemporaries.

Colour in Landscape at the Main Gallery continues the Scottish

Colourist legend. Scots don't tint, stain or tinge with subtle hue but

dip their brushes into livid joyful rainbow paint, vide Hock-Aun Teh's

superb swirls of orange, mauve, turquoise and black Zen calligraphy

which make up Butterfly Farm. My theory is that they do so to compensate

for our dreich grey skies. Lesley Main and Jimmy Robertson also excel

with Dancing Trees, and Ebb Tide.

Terry Frost is not a Scot but, like Bert Irvin, has the same

infectious enthusiasm and love of volatile colour. Now 74, he gets

younger and more successful as the years pass. Pure gusto bounces from

Black Sun Newlyn; Sun Up Cyprus is joie de vivre absraction made flesh.

Frost, professor of painting at Reading University, now professor

emeritus, was one of my teachers, and his optical shock tactics were as

renowned then as now. The show spans 20 years, covering the Frost

repertoire from relatively restrained mid-60s red, white and black

collages to large-scale vigorous abstracts where circles and slices of

colours balance V-shaped wedges and fine black threads. Frost lives in

Cornwall and his studio window overlooking the sea provides satisfying

imagery of sunsets, boats, buoys and sails, the central focus often a

concentric circle vibrating and floating like suns quivering in the sky.

Friend and colleague Adrian Heath, whose last Scottish show was at the

Compass Gallery, also exhibits impressive abstracts from two decades.

His work is mor organic, one form touching, crossing or displacing

another. His paintings rely on initial linear drawing from the nude and

from landscape. These studies clarify surface and space, logic and

impulse, sensuality and intellect. Colour here is less audacious but

nonetheless triumphant. Frost and Heath are at the Barbizon Gallery till

May 28.