The richness of color, the detail of form, and the vibrancy and mischief in the work of Johan Barrios comes from a mind constantly at play. Barrios views his world with a combination of fascination and skepticism. His large oil works provide a tromp d’oeil: their realism makes them look like photographs, but the colors he manifests from his pigments add an imaginary element to each piece. Art, fiction, and reality, the artificial and the genuine, coexist in each part of the canvas setting up a discourse of its own, an ambiguous whole. His paintings and drawings are transformed into visual collages, camouflaged devices that direct the images to a specific theme, highlighting the paradoxes between artist and work, collection and perception, between the iconic and reproducible on a great scale.
Currently living in Colombia, Barrios adds an enthusiasm to the emerging creative force that is Latin America. By proving that an artist need not only be imaginative, but clever as well, he paints images that reference pop culture without relying too heavily on that reference. As journalist Ana Velez writes, “Barrios creates images from the questions that art inspires, and they communicate those questions on a conceptual level. Johan is a restless artist who is not married to any formula. He has ways of representing his strokes within a certain realism, ranging from a photographic image to the archetype of the images illustrated in the magazine-style of American advertising in the sixties, or, at times, as if to recall the style of Norman Rockwell.“
There is an easy quality about the artist and his work. At only 29 years old, his technique and composition reflect an exquisite talent, one that takes on iconic artistic trends and adds a distinctly modern perspective. Along with John J. Bedoya, he is widely considered to be one of Colombia’s most promising contemporary artists.