Artist Feature: Into the Graffitied Canvas of Barry John MBE

  • Posted by: Rupashree Ravi

“My images can be quite busy; it’s just the way I think, paint and the overall energy behind it.” 

Our latest interview is with Barry John MBE, the award-winning Welsh war artist and former soldier. Known for his distinctive avant-garde style of art, Barry is a renowned inspiration to many, including myself, and it was truly a privilege to hear his origin story. He is the Founder of VC Gallery in Pembrokeshire that supports the welfare of veterans, and other members of the community facing issues of mental health and social isolation, through art. In an era where the topic of mental health is often dismissed as a taboo, Barry’s art has helped many combat social isolation through creative engagement. 

Having served in the British military for 24 years and travelling throughout the world, Barry was passionate to share his cultural experiences and perspectives. He can be classed as a neo-expressionist, but his work goes beyond the borders of the art movement. His pictures feature visually strong and confrontational dichotomies to get the message of the works across. “I call it Black Graffiti paintings where I use black with neon. I work through a lot of chaos. I like colour and a lot of vibrancy.” These graffiti marks give an additional complexity to the work, adding value to the overall story and objectives of each composition.  

In this discussion, we hear highlights from his remarkable story – of the life of Barry before taking up art; his career as a soldier, the milestones, accolades, and achievements he stacked up since building a community and the growth that comes from self-reliance and triumph in the face of adversity. 

The soldier-turned-artist talks about the themes behind some of his trailblazing work, including his most famous street art and graffiti works. Each canvas tells a unique story – something that is deep and personal to him, but at the same time holds true for all. He believes art should be accessible to all, inviting the wider community to actively engage and introspect into their lives. We hope you enjoy listening to his journey and take away the message he conveys.  

You can watch the full interview here.

Feature Image: Barry John MBE