Clare Henry believes that for eclecticism in art, Glasgow is on top of the world.

WHERE in the world can you find such a wide variety of top-calibre art in such a small area as Glasgow? I can't think of anywhere except New York. London's mainstream and avant-garde galleries can be an hour apart; ditto Los Angeles. Rome, Oslo, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne - even Sydney - lack the range while Barcelona and Cologne differ in content. So, for convenience Glasgow has much to offer and keen aficionados can try this all-encompassing route round greater Glasgow.

International women artists are usually thin on the ground so welcome Ana Maria Pacheco (at the Compass Gallery), who more than holds her own in any gathering. Currently associate artist at London's National Gallery (this is a major accolade for a senior artist; Peter Blake and Paula Rego were previous holders), Pacheco hails from Brazil and, although she's been in the UK for 25 years, her inspiration still comes from the folk tales of her native country.

These dark satanic stories coupled with political overtones (she left Brazil after military dictators seized power), make for a fabulous rich broth of magic and mystery which has baroque fantasy mixed with sinister happenings. Pacheco's forte is dense etching where incidents in dense shadow are revealed only by scrutiny. However, her new series includes surprising colour. Quietus Est is spiced by touches of red among the gloom, while Tales of Transformation positively glow with stained glass hues.

Here Medea drives her great chariot with dragons; Orpheus and Eurydice are veiled in purple and orange; elsewhere jaguars and pigs are beasts with human attributes. A veritable virtuoso performance. Best of all, Pacheco's wicked wit surfaces in 10 woodcuts, Gargantua & Pantagruel, cheap at #180.

Painter Mary Armour (whose retrospective can be seen at Billcliffe Fine Art) is a stalwart supporter of Paisley Art Institute where she is honorary vice-president. At this year's impressive 110th annual exhibition the Armour Award goes to a wonderful bronze Eve by Vince Butler. Other prizes include the Gerber Award to Anda Paterson, Bowie Award to William Birnie, Coats Viyella to Cynthia Wall, Green Award to Anne Anderson, Eton Award to Hazel Nagl, Miller to Laura Battles - and the Art Institute's own prize goes to Helen Wilson, who also shows a superb study of her daughter Waiting In The Wings.

Paisley's annual show has a welcoming, unpretentious air. Its other virtue is the sheer plethora of choice - 440 works - something for everyone from big, bold sophisticated geometric abstracts (Reeves) to miniaturist detail (Falconer Houston), delightful family studies (Swan) or Kintyre seascapes (Wright), and Dumfries Bridge (Hargan).

Best of all, several folk have taken great strides. It's especially noticeable in Carter's slabs of colour and Carruther's Forest, while Boyd's boys, Gilen's charcoal portrait, Bruce's shores, Cuthel's line drawing, and Greer's Cleveden all caught my eye.

Prices start at #70 and the show runs until June 6.

Several artists showing at Paisley can be seen elsewhere. Judith Bridgland and friends take part in MacRoberts Open at Art Exposure along with King and Cockburn. Rosalind Orr fills the new offices of Merk Finance in Cadogan Square with romantic paintings of love and song (nice to see investment managers supporting art), while Margaret Duff and Damian Henry both show at the Botanics Visitor Centre along with father and son Jim and Jamie Simpson whose studies of the Kibble Palace are nicely different.

The Kibble's statues feature in Branka Dimitrijevic's accomplished pictures; the public in all its glory fill Eric Doig's graphic studies, while Effie Pennie ventures to Rhum and Eigg.

Like Merk, the Botanics is to be congratulated on its arts policy. Dentist Lloyd Jerome also invites pictures to his Bath Street walls: until May 28 Norman Gilbert, whose distinctive patterned paintings of his family are instantly recognisable. Gilbert decided that art was ''the only thing that would last a lifetime'' while serving in the Royal Navy at the end of the war and an ex-Service grant enabled him to train at Glasgow Art School.

Gerard Morris also presents a solo show, this time at Artbank in Cleveden Road, while further afield the Gallowgate Group from East Campbell Street exhibit in that excellent space, the Lillie Art Gallery, Milngavie. This gang of 12 includes major Scottish artists like Jacki Parry, just back from a show at the Adelaide Festival, Australia. Her new series, Ways of Editing, is outstanding, while Jim Pattison's outrageous acrylics and Paul Cosgrove's subtle laminates must not be missed.

Back in town, Caledonia University's new library, designed by Austin-Smith-Lord, has provided space for a small exhibition area for book jackets and ephemera associated with their ever-expanding special collections. Books and pamphlets gifted from Norman and Janey Buchan have inspired other donations, including the STUC Archive and Gallacher Memorial Library. Book design is very reflective of its era and the current display ranges from 1831 to today, including Lewthwaite Dewar's 1904 Glasgow-style bookplate.

More good design at Garner's ceramics in Parnie Street where Ian McWhinnie's inexpensive painted plates impressed

me greatly.

Nearby, Transmission hosts a chalk and cheese show - that's to say Helen Beckman's bland blue monochrome monkeys could not be more different to Graham Little's rainbow striped, liquorice allsort-coloured cubes and large box structures which cross the boundary back to design. Beckman's watercolour-ish graphics hail from New York; Little studied painting at Dundee before going to London's Goldsmiths.

Transmission artists also show in Host at Tramway where 50 anarchic Glasgow and London artists assemble to present a jumbled display that will puzzle most visitors.

The argument as to what exactly art is these days could begin anywhere (some question anything that moves slightly away from picture windows on a landscape), but here fundamentals are thrown up in the air and some, like basic skills, dispensed with altogether.

The definition of art has always been open to debate. The trap of admiring manual dexterity or mere technique in favour of content is common and to be avoided. Recently, even 97-year-old Mary Armour was forced to restate that, for her, painting was an intellectual pursuit like writing or composing. ''The thinking takes far more time than the actual manipulation of the oil paint,'' she emphasised. Another friend, insisting that originality of concept is the only possible definition for art, made the analogy that painting realistic trompe l'oeil effects is merely like taking a food recipe or a dressmaking pattern and reproducing it. When ideas, intellect, and issues are non-existent or in short supply; when technique is all, it certainly produces craft, not art.

Where this argument begins in relation to Host's melange of video, text, sound, found objects, assemblages, and suchlike, remains to be seen.

But one thing's for sure,

you can't accuse Glasgow of being boring!