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Throughout the development of modern art, the relationship between photography and painting has always been intriguing. Can these two different mediums be intertwined and, if so, how? Questioning concepts of perception, Colombian artist Johan Barrios continues to succeed in integrating one with another by photographing models according to his ideas and recreating the imagery by translating it into sensual drawings and paintings.
“It’s important to note that so much of what is the final reference comes from the ephemeral moments when I’m there interacting and shooting the models.”
Inspired by basic elements, such as line, form, and light, Barrios starts his work on a new piece with many simple rough sketches of potential ideas with figures and objects. After connecting with models to recreate those loose ideas and photographing them, the artist gains total control when it comes to interpreting an image. Choosing oil on canvas, graphite or charcoal, and watercolor on paper as his preferred mediums to work with, Barrios creates mixed media drawings and paintings using grayscale or dreamy pastel palette. Ever since 2015, his artwork has been more consistent in regards to his concept.
“As for my style, I believe it’s a process that has evolved and continues to evolve with every piece.”
Even though he is a figurative painter, Johan’s intentions go beyond simply painting portraits, which is transparent when he makes subjects’ faces disappear, using either a mark of watercolor or a specific position of the body. This way, models are detached from identities and dehumanized, thus becoming objects that are used to make up the artistic idea.
“I hope that my work generates more questions than answers.”
Exploring concepts of time, space, and movement, Barrios questions the limits of various mediums: a surreal subject matter has been positioned in loose fields of paint, blurred into the abstract landscape, while their lifeless postures create uncanny compositions. With a strong light source, the artist emphasizes this drama in the scene, adding mystery to the ominous imagery. Johan Barrios’ artwork invokes the haunting feeling in the viewer, making them pay closer attention to the hyper-realistic, though unusual and surreal, details in the composition, leaving them wondering whether they are looking at the photography, drawing, or painting.