Visual art lovers need no time machine to take them to different eras and faraway places. All they need to do is walk into museums and galleries.

Seventeenth-century China is as close as the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, where excellent examples of porcelain ceramics are being featured.Or you might want to check out the Utah's art scene at the turn of the century. Stop by Williams Fine Art, and you'll discover photographs and paintings by J.T. Harwood.

How about a quick trip to Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and England? Just step into Basil's gift shop to view paintings by Ian Ramsay.

- "17th Century Chinese Porcelain from the Butler Family Collection" is attracting art lovers at UMFA. The 142 pieces on display are of particular importance because they were created during the Transitional Period (1620-1683), a time when Chinese ceramists were freed from direct imperial control.

Clarence W. Kelley, curator of Asian Art at Dayton Art Institute, said, "Without an imperial overseer, artisans boldly began to experiment with new shapes and decorations. These wares are remarkable for their brilliance and diversity."

One doesn't have to be a professional potter to appreciate this exhibit. It's filled with enough diverse forms and stylistic decorative approaches to maintain a lively visual dialogue.

Artisans have used highly personal styles when creating shapes and decorating surfaces with flowers, landscapes and other motifs.

Space does not permit me to list and comment on all pieces that particularly appealed to me. But here are a few:

#7, a Buddhist lion sculpted in porcelain with holes in its eyes, nostrils and mouth to allow burning incense to escape; #40, a vase with nine underglaze red dragons dramatically highlighted with blue eyes; #48, a wine pot in the form of a peach; #80, a standing figure of a smiling boy; and #128, a large dish on which an adroit artisan painted a landscape of swirling contour lines and blobby dots.

Complementing the porcelain exhibit are informative plaques and a free eight-page gallery guide. Available for purchase is a fully illustrated, scholarly catalog containing over 70 full-color plates.

The exhibit remains through Sunday, June 9, at UMFA, 101 Art and Architecture Center, University of Utah (581-7332). Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 2 to 5 p.m. on weekends. No admission is charged.

- If it had not been for Joe Bauman's rummaging, Clayton Williams' sleuthing and museums and collectors cooperating, there would be no J.T. Harwood exhibit at Williams Fine Art.

In December, 1989, Deseret News environmental writer Joe Bauman was scouring antique shop for Christmas gifts. In one shop he chanced upon a drawer filled with 4-by-5-inch negatives. They fascinated him, so he purchased the entire set for around $90.

As it turned out, the photographs were taken by Utah painter James Taylor Harwood (1860-1940), many of them around the turn of the century. Bauman said he found views of France, photographs of Harwood's paintings and carefully posed compositions from which he painted his oils.

Bauman's story about these negatives appeared in the Deseret News on August 19, 1990. At 7:30 that morning, he was awakened by a phone call. At the other end of the line was art collector and gallery owner Clayton Williams who said he had read the story and suggested, "We need to share this with the world."

They talked about the possibility of eventually holding an exhibit where the photographs would be displayed with the actual paintings.

It was not easy to locate specific Harwood paintings, but Williams persevered. "Every lead I got took me to another one," he said. As the May exhibit date approached, he had successfully matched up over a dozen photographs with their paintings.

Some of the works on display are "Blowing Soap Bubbles," "Learning to Scratch" and "Becky and Dick Almond."

Artist and historian Will South was truly excited about the discovery of the negatives. He indicated that these lost-and-found photos have added greater insights into Harwood and his art.

South has done extensive research on the life of J.T. Harwood. In fact, he wrote a 100-page catalog about the artist that accompanied a traveling retrospective exhibition during 1987 and 1988.

Williams gives special thanks to those who lent Harwood paintings for the show - Museum of Church History and Art, Springville Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Utah Arts Council, and about a dozen private sources.

This fascinating show continues through Friday, May 17 at Williams Fine Art, 175 W. 200 South, Suite 2011 (534-0331). Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m.

- You don't have to pack your bags and spend a lot of money to travel to the Pacific Northwest and England. Just take the escalator at Crossroads Plaza to level three, walk down the east concourse and enter Basil's.

Ian Ramsay has traveled to all of the above places. Fascinated by rural and harbor scenes, he sketched them, photographed them and, upon returning to his Utah studio, painted them.

People have a hard time believing it when Ramsay says he's a self-taught watercolorist. But it's true.

He had limited exposure to watercolor while attending high school and when pursuing an MA degree in architecture at the University of Utah.

After graduating, he returned to England (he was born in Farnborough, Kent, England) where he worked as an architect for 21/2 years. Working close to London's Victoria and Albert Museum, he visited there often and became enamored with the watercolor sketches of Turner and Constable, as well as works by English painter Roland Hilder.

After getting married in 1975, he and his bride came to Utah where, over a four-year period, he worked for several architect firms.

Suddenly, in 1979, Ramsay made a big decision. He quit his job to paint full-time.

And 12 years later, he's still afloat.

During those years, he has accumulated quite a following. If you don't believe me, count the number of paintings that have sold in his current show at Basil's.

Don't ask him to paint a duplicate of one that's sold. "I hardly ever paint the same subject twice, and never from the same point of view." He said that some people don't think of realistic artists as "complete artists - just picture painters." And he's proving them wrong.

Although Ramsay works from his own sketches and photographs, he isn't a slave to what he sees in them. He adds objects, deletes others, and moves things around to improve the composition.

To make sure that his paintings are not peaceful, he often opts to include grey, ominous clouds. "I never paint a plain blue sky," he said.

Three local galleries carry Ramsay's watercolors - Basil's, Brushworks, and the Main Street Limited in the Hilton Hotel. He is also represented in five out-of-state galleries - three in Lake Tahoe, one in Sun Valley and one in Carmel.

His art will remain at Basil's through May. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For details, call 355-1012.