Jim Livingstone and Beth Fisher, Demarco Gallery; Artists' Choice and

Bird in the Hand, Open Eye Gallery; Alan Watson and Lucy Ross, 369

Gallery; Calum Stirling, Collective Gallery; Bruce McLean, Scottish

Gallery, Edinburgh.

IF Beth Fisher lived in London and Jim Livingstone were based in the

States both would be internationally famous. As it is they work

full-time in Aberdeen, earning a pittance as, respectively, Peacock

Workshop manager and Grampian supply teacher. Somehow they also manage

to produce their own work, albeit with increasing difficulty and over a

longer timescale. It is a disgrace that Scotland treats its artists so,

but in the present political climate things will not change.

It has taken six years for Livingstone to put this exhibition

together, no surprise in view of its ambitious scale. Four 9ft pastels

flank four huge panels entitled The Wounds. Another large diptych,

Onward Christian Soldiers, plus a series of 12 watercolours and two

pastels, Ex-Votis and Cloud of Unkowing, complete this impressive, if

disturbing, array.

For Livingstone walks a tightrope between Dali-like surrealism,

religious iconography and kitsch. A heady mixture at any time;

especially when executed with technical brilliance and virtuoso

handling. Coupled with genuine soul-searching that only a strict Glasgow

Catholic upbringing can produce, they are hypnotic visions where

Christ's stigmata and the Eucharist as sacrament sit cheek by jowl with

sexual fecundity. The darker side of the flesh, its self-imposed

spiritual and mortal wounds are exposed in nightmare detail a cathartic


''I wanted to find out how I relate to Christianity,'' he said. ''I

was not comfortable with myself. The cold, dry unemotional minimalism

taught and practised at Gray's School of Art in the 1970s when I was a

student did not suit me at all. A visit to Portugal in 1981 was very

important. I needed colour; sun. It inspired a search using iconography

as a vehicle. Things are better now.''

More positive Christian symbols appear in The Dream of the Rood

inspired by an eighth-

century poem which addresses a visionary cross. Elements of the

crucifixion and resurrection underlie this potent image. The monsters of

Bosch metamorphose here into Odilon Redon-style symbolist pictures where

a bubble-haired angel sleeps peacefully, dreaming, this landscape

littered with Fantin Latour flowers while pollution hovers on the


Not content with mixing spiritual surrealism and symbolism,

Livingstone also occasionally adds a touch of Graham Crowley/

Disneyworld, bizarre but appealing creature-characters; semi-rodent as

in Multim In Parvo; Michael Sandle/Mickey Mouse in the bright orange and

purple diptych, Christian Soldiers. Here twentieth-century missiles fire

off above a Christmas-card church, light flooding from its open doors to

welcome the flock.

While Livingstone can handle over-the-top imagery, some watercolours,

such as the Offering and Brown Wolfhound, are lyrical, subtle, even

gentle. Livingstone's fantasy world is far removed from the usual

north-east maritime tradition and all the better for that. Good to see

this versatile artist following his own path.

Beth Fisher's major exhibition, The Canopy Series, has already been

seen at Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and the prestigious Tenth

International Bradford Biennale where she was alongside Bellany, Howson,

Heindorff, Conrad Atkinson, and Bruce McLean. (The Bradford Biennale is

currently at Aberdeen's Artspace Gallery till February 8). Fisher's show

is now at The Demarco Gallery till January 28, before going on to

Plymouth, Cardiff, Orkney, and three Highland venues. As this profound

and honest examination of the family unit demonstrates, she is one of

the best figurative draughtsmen Britain has.

Richard Demarco continues to integrate theatre, costume design, and

art in the most practical way by hosting the John McGrath/

Channel 4 workshop preparations for the new production, Border

Warfare, to be premiered at the Old Transport Museum, Glasgow, in

February. The medieval robes embellished in gold and silver, juxtaposed

with stark black monks' cowls and gowns is an installation worth seeing

in itself.

The Open Eye continues its intriguing annual selectors' exhibition

with The Artists' Choice. Twenty-five painters of repute account for

their preferences. Bellany's comment on Fleming is to the point: ''A

stalwart who has lasted the pace.'' Demarco's is typically long and

lucid, an excellent summation of all that is best about landscape poet

Dawson Murray.

While Reeves/Lamb, Shanks/ Robertson, and Morrocco and Patrick indulge

in mutual admiration, others surprise. I admired Beardsworth's red and

green Hodgkinesque paper pulp print, selected by Behrens, and Kynoch's

portrait, chosen by Squires because: ''She has turned a deaf ear to

fashionable parrot cries out of a secure knowledge of her own

capabilities and pursued her natural course with exquisite


Open Eye's concurrent show A Bird in the Hand, is equally effective

with beautiful studio ceramics from Sarah and Anna Noel (first seen at

the Scottish Gallery in December), Stanczyk Honeyman, Veevers Kato,

Hawkins, and others. The remit: to incorporate a bird however tenuous,

has succeeded well with the fortuitously named Drakeford notable in her

Peacock teapot. Wyllie's Famous Grouse are characteristically


The 369 Gallery continues its good run with two excellent shows. Alan

Watson has long painted pictures about the east-coast fishermen and

their dangerous seafaring life. However, till now, the imagery never

rang true and poor drawing compounded the effect. Happily, he has taken

a great leap forward, inspired by the epic events of the

nineteenth-century Scottish whaling fleets hunting the ''Big Fish.''

A series of 25 large, authoritative charcoal drawings depict the gory

details of planting the harpoon, finning out, pitch poling and cutting

up the blubber together with strong studies of the whalers and their

customs. Nantucket Sleigh Ride, Jonah, and Mrs Neptune are especially

fine, while compositions involving diagonals, such as Krenger, and

Spading the Fluke work well.

Also at the 369, Edinburgh-born Lucy Ross, ex-Royal College, exhibits

classical statuary in dream-like interiors broadly painted in fluid,

intense colour.

At the Collective Gallery, Dundee sculptor Calum Stirling shows

unusual wall and floor pieces made from top hats, sacking, a wire cage

on wheels, and the ubiquitous jug and stepladder. A plastic cone-wrapped

tree completes this eccentric display. To see the real virtuoso cup/

jug/ladder man, visit The Scottish Gallery where Bruce McLean's works

on paper, 1986-7 are on show till February 1.