FRED 'roMAsELLI Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. until Sun 3 Oct 0...

Tomaselli’s world is a weird, ecstatic, dark, joyous and lonely one. While the initial impact of his strange psychedelic-tinged works are sudden, the atmosphere slowly builds up; almost creeps up on you. Life size human figures are bisected in an intensified biological diagram kind of way so that muscle and sinew are formed by intense clusters of magazine cut outs of teeth, eyes, petals and, in Fungi and Flowers, a writhing snake wriggling down from the intestines to the penis. The figure is cast against a deep, flat black background where butterflies scatter in beautiful patterning that suggests Islamic or folk art. At the bottom of the painting, blades of grass curve with a distinctness reminiscent of Henri Rousseau’s jungle paintings.

There’s so much to look at and be awed by in a Tomaselli work of this scale - peering beyond the striking viscerallity to the tiny, layered components that create the overall image. His works pulse with life and at the same time contain a complete stillness and control. It’s a strange mix of affirmative and unsettling - look closely at Field Guides in which a man hoes a field dotted with mushrooms against a night sky and you’ll see on one foot tiny claws growing over the end of his toes. It‘s creepy as are the narrow eyes that peer our from a swirling abstract pattern in Web for Eyes.

In smaller works the magical element is distilled. Collage is forsaken for pure painting dotting and arranging gouache with simple precision. In Embellished Portrait of Katho the ‘sitter’ is charted by a constellation of ‘all the drugs she can remember taking’ in the alignment of stars in her horoscope. Celestial

patterns, glowing bright, democratically link LSD, chocolate, Methadone, MDMA, Morphine and many others in a web of her chemically-altered make up. Tomaselli plays with materials, so that drugs are depicted as stars and what look like blobs of colour are pills sealed in resin. Beyond all this, beauty transcends and connects.

It gradually dawns on you that within the beauty, patterns, decorative motifs and collage, Tomaselli is exploring and depicting the world in terms of biology, chemistry and physics one piece is even called The Doppelganger Effect. The patterning in decorative motifs reveal a sense of order and chaos our crucial contradiction natural patterns

Diagrams and Banners


PAINIING LUCY SKAER doggerfisher, until Sat 25 Sep .00.

Lucy Skaer’s work is about knowing when to stop. All of her works on paper look as if Skaer has laboured over them, putting her all into every intricate line, each thin wash of paint until, all of a sudden, she walks away, done. Looking at them works the same way. The eye isn’t led, it’s allowed to wander, following a filligree of pencil marks to its illogical inconclusion. In Banner of The Short and Longer Term, a clutter of wine glasses squat dead centre and, as you trace over their outlines down to the thick interruption of a blood red line, there’s a shock in store. That abstract tangle of green and yellow is nothing of the sort. It’s a corpse, and, in the background, the killer slumps, dead drunk. Skaer’s work is also about its own making. From afar, The Opaque is a glossy, golden portrait; up close, the dense swirls of gold fill outlines drawn with a near-obsessional precision, a close copy of a rasterised image or bad printing on cheap paper. There are pinkish smudges around the mouth. too, and unerased trails of pencil marks at the edges. Elsewhere, this exposure of the means of production is more marked, with perspective guides and grids left in, dictating shifts in colour as if Skaer

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Expecting to Fly

existing within a chaotic universe. Expecting to Fly shows a male figure born up in a celestial background dotted with butterflies, as if thrown up by the raised hands beneath - crowd surfing on a universal scale. He could be lost in the great, vast darkness, or he could be liberated and free. It’s chaos theory in perfect harmony. Distinctly patterned wings beat, causing unchartered disruption on the other side of the world. The Butterfly Effect in more ways than one.

Tomaselli’s works really get to you in strange ways. They're like nothing you’ve ever seen before, but somehow it’s as if you‘ve always known them. (Ruth Hedges)

changes the world she sees as she draws it.

Returning to Banner of the Short and Long Term, its grid is barely there, just visible in the switches from one colour to another. Flag of the River, meanwhile, homes in on the division of the paper into eight oblongs in its very title, with alternating reds and blacks framing the piece and almost obscuring the suggestion of landscape beneath. At times, it’s all too easy to get caught up in this foregrounding of method. You can look at Flash in the Metropolitan for quite a time, absorbed in the finnicky marks and shapes, wondering why this line continues when that one doesn't, before realising it is a picture of something - a vase, as it happens - not just a picture about making pictures.

The effect colours even the works where it is not overt. Bevel/ed Map, a cityscape that is at once detailed and sketchy, asks to have order imposed on it, not because there is anything in the tangle of streets that suggests anything but chaos, but because Skaer’s technique elsewhere alters your way of looking. This is the best thing about Skaer’s work: it gets under your skin. The works on paper shown here don’t just reveal themselves slowly, they go on forever. Leaving them in the gallery feels almost rude, like wandering away in the middle of a conversation. (Jack Mottram)