Will Barras


Written by Marlon Dolcy
01 Monday 01st November 2010
If there is one thing that is certain, it is that Will Barras is an exceptional talent. His work is unique, organic, and inimitable. He currently has a show at the Stolen Space Gallery displaying fresh paintings created over a period of two years. Don’t Panic went down to Brick Lane for the opening night of his exhibition.
Barras first made a name for himself with the Hip Hop Don’t Stop album sleeves and by being one of the original members of the Scrawl Collective. His work has featured on all types of boards, clothes, album sleeves, animation and mural campaigns. Through the Scrawl Collective he has always been in high demand and has worked with clients such as Volkswagen and Nickelodeon. Finding the time in an already busy schedule, he has chosen to create some remarkable works of energy and colour.
Bad Reception demonstrates that Barras cannot be pigeonholed. Though his origin lies in illustration there is a sense that he is moving in a unique direction with these paintings. The use of acrylic, spray paint and ink helps this notion aesthetically. Violent lines dominate his works and often untidily the paint drips down from the canvas creating a sort of abstract gravity reminiscent to many street art pieces. The use of reflection and light blurs the distinction between abstract and figurative whilst at the same time expanding on the paintings’ narrative.
Thematically, movement links most of these paintings and the canvasses display plenty of kinetic energy. This is helped by some of the subject matter which includes automobiles, motorcycles, and dodgem cars. Looking at some of the pictures it appears as people are being chased. One painting shows a landscape view of a car in a field with its head lights bearing down on a figure that appears to be running.
Another shows a busy congested scene with a motorbike occupying two figures in the foreground. People in the car on the motorcycle’s right seem to be gesturing to the people on the motorbike. There is no sense in trying to figure out what is going on in these paintings, because Barras does not want you to know. In truth a story is being told, but what story is being told up to the viewer.
Before he reached where he is today Barras spent eight months working in the humdrum atmosphere of the call centre. Along with Mr Jago, he did little doodles to pass the time and stop himself from going mad. In a weird sort of way we might be thankful that he spent time there, because the mundane and the commonplace form the inspiration for some of this work.
However Barras takes a normal and everyday scene and makes it spectacular. Speaking to him at the show, he tells me how each painting tells a story but not so much through its imagery. He points to picture he notices me looking at. “That one shows my time spent in Vegas with friends”. Apart from the bright colours the picture doesn’t seem to offer any inclination associated with Las Vegas. “Yes, the story lies in the way it is painted. I wanted to tell the story through my own particular style, through reflections and the subconscious to create a psychedelic piece of work.”
The painting Bad Reception for example, is taken from when Mr Jago “would have to go and stand on a chair in the kitchen to get reception” But if you look at the picture on which this story is based, a man is standing on the edge of a high rise building telephone in hand and the city landscape beneath him. It is a depiction which is a different interpretation from reality.
Looking at some of these paintings reminds me of the visual wonderment of films such as Tron or Blade Runner. This is some complement. They are works of dark ethereal beauty from a talent that can apparently do no wrong. If you find yourself anywhere near Brick Lane don’t hesitate to pop in at the Stolen Space Gallery to view Barras’ works.
Will Barras is at the Stolen Space Gallery until November 14.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.