Visual Arts / SEE that mirror? We can twirl it after we've pinched it,

or spherise it first, then twirl, pinch, blur, distort, and change all

the colours! We also amputated Action Man's arm and inserted the plastic


Lisa Jelley from Tayburn Design was putting her magic Super Mac/Quadra

computer through its paces for my benefit. On screen was one of Calum

Colvin's hypnotic images from his impressive show, Seven Deadly Sins and

the Four Last Things at Edinburgh's Portfolio Gallery, which tours to

Germany and Sweden. The monitor then showed five layered photos: the

aforesaid budgie and mirror plus a globe, bird cage, and concrete

heating blocks -- just a few of the ingredients of Colvin's Pride and

Sloth pictures, created courtesy of a unique east-west collaboration.

For these high resolution transparencies and photos were made by

Glasgow's B & S Visual Technologies company who are at the cutting edge

of computer-generated digital imagery. Sitting at the screen Colvin

explained the process whereby he builds his surreal sculptural sets with

debris from Portobello beach and photographs them in Fuji colour before

the images are transferred by magic -- and Lisa's nimble fingers -- on

to software. Several hard-working Saturdays later, with Colvin acting as

art director, the finished images go to B & S to be re-touched,

mastered, and manipulated, with Colvin and the B & S operators working

nights to produce the sensational large-scale colour photographs at


It's space-age print-making, says Colvin, who has come a long way

since I first met him in 1985 at London's Royal College and selected him

for that summer's Serpentine show. Then he built his theatrical sets

from cardboard, old furniture, and charity shop remnants painted in

trompe l'oeil fashion in large flat sweeps of pink and pale blue. Even

now his constructions are by no means all, or even half, computer

generated. The lightning flashes across the sulphur sky in Anger (which

contains a self-portrait of himself as his favourite kilted Action Man)

were made by nothing more sophisticated than a razor blade on paper.

However vital elements like the cubist sail and submerged wheels of a

floating tea trolley in Avarice or the candle flare in Envy are

completely created by state-of-the-art 1993 modern technology where

equipment six months old is totally out of date. ''It's moving so

fast,'' says Colvin. When I began back in 1988 in Hemel Hempstead all

this was in its infancy. It was like Starship Enterprise with huge banks

of electronics in the basement. Now it's all contained in a 20-inch box.

It's been marvellous working with B & S and Tayburn.''

Space-age technology aside, the content of Colvin's series is based on

serious fifteenth-century stuff: Hieronymus Bosch's great work in

Madrid's Prado. Long fascinated by moral themes, here Colvin updates

age-old sins such as sloth to cover spiritual indolence, drugs, and TV.

Birds appear throughout, symbolic of innocence, together with his usual

tartan-clad heroes. Humour mixed with mythology is to the fore.

''Murray Johnston called me a 'Cultural skimmer'. He wasn't implying

superficiality, rather the way I alight on things. I liked that. My

pictures are not a test. People mustn't feel they've got to understand

everything. A response -- that's enough.''

Colvin recently returned to settle in Scotland from London -- another

world-class artist to welcome and celebrate. See this important show

till May 29.

Both Colvin and Joseph Urie originally studied at Dundee and came to

notice in the 1987 Vigorous Imagination exhibition. Urie also works with

Dreamtime. His obsessive impasto oils of disturbing imaginary

juxtapositions of nudes, dogs, and birds have an ominous claustrophobic

quality. Urie's theme of sexual jealousy and insecurity is purposefully

ambiguous. His best pictures like Woman with Bird and The Catch, are

simple and forceful in black, white, and red but he needs an editor. At

Barclay Lennie, Glasgow.

A superb, absolutely entrancing, and unmissable show is Jemima

Blackburn at Glasgow's Collins Gallery. Blackburn was a lucky, talented

Victorian lady, born in Edinburgh's Heriot Row in 1823 into the noted

Clerk of Penicuik and Wedderburn families. She travelled extensively

(Egypt, Greece, and Iceland), was friendly with Landseer, Ruskin,

Millais, Lord Kelvin, Trollope, Disraeli, and the Prince of Wales, and

in 1849 married Glasgow mathematics professor, Hugh Blackburn of


Far from being a dilettante, she painted obsessively all her life:

enchanting, evocative, vignettes of family, friends, and children

working and playing at their Roshven west-coast home, visiting London,

travelling on the Nile, on the Clyde, or to Fingal's Cave, plus

beautiful ornithological studies published in the 1860s. You cannot fail

to enjoy this show. It is touring to Hamilton, Stirling, Hawick, Dundee,

and England.

Peter Howson's first success was in New Image Glasgow at the Third

Eye, 1985. Two of these seminal paintings, Govan Team and Eldorado, are

at the William Hardie Gallery together with other early works. With

hindsight these soldiers, dossers, whores, and boxers are crudely

painted, punchy, chunky, rough, and ready, but oozing with his famous

grit which will stand him in good stead as Bosnian war artist.

Accurate but not idiosyncratic; lively not lax: architectural drawings

are notoriously difficult. At Roger Billcliffe Fine Art Peter Michael

breathes life into Glasgow's tenements and Parisian streets, while

downstairs Gordon Mitchell's more painstaking but enigmatic Not So Still

Life compilations fill the walls with whirling violins and winking


''If I was Scarlett O'Hara, New Mains and Ravenscleugh would be my

Tara,'' says Gay Grossart who paints her East Lothian home with panache

and affection. Grossart can get carried away by her passion for colour

and would do well to turn down the volume. But occasionally it pays off

-- as in a wonderfully flamboyant full-blooded orange and turquoise

Nocturne II Bass Rock. Dusk on Traprain Law, Harvest Moon, and Daybreak

benefit from a gentler palette. I enjoyed her sea-swirl ceramics too. At

Edinburgh's Kingfisher Gallery.