For three days each year (this being his fourth), Barry opens his home as his showroom. Inviting friends, family, plus past, present and potential buyers, the rooms of his house display years of his creations and everything is for sale. Though Barry told me he's sold hundreds of paintings over his career, some of the work still dotted around dates back to the 1960s. But it's his later work that I found most exciting.
In an exhibition entitled 'Men and Mountains' in 1995, he displayed his landscapes and male nudes together. The comments book from the event is a hoot (a mixture of Daily Mail-esque outrage and genuine appreciation of his craft), but this collection appears to have set the tone for the next two decades. Images of the male form, with particular focus on a handful of subjects, sit alongside the vastness of mountainsides, showing beauty from the smallness of a face right up to the geological, topographical and planetary.
One such subject is a singer named Tolu, who he has painted again and again. Barry told me that with Tolu, like much of his recent work, he had found himself fascinated by an image or subject, exploring them obsessively through various versions, colours and forms. I had seen paintings of Tolu before, but he produced image after image of the singer for me in his studio, showing exactly how he develops his work. "I've always got numerous projects on the go at one time," he said, "I can never stick to just one." By the look of the sheets of polythene covering the wall, these sessions can get quite rigorous too, and the passion evident in his work is as obvious as the passion in the man you speak to.
During the 90s, Barry worked as a therapist for patients with HIV and AIDS. For a time, his work became an expression of the suffering and pain he was privy to every day. Showing tortured faces, distorted and screaming amongst vortexes of dark colours, there was seemingly real darkness that he needed to express through painting. But something appears to have changed now. He told me of more recent personal pain that had inspired a good portion of his work, but this was expressed in a much more spiritual way, with dark shapes giving way to open skies; a reflection of his spirituality. As he led me around his home, it seemed that colour itself had become more expressive to Barry than necessarily the subjects of his work. Played out against dawns and twilights, the skies of the painter's imagination show a clarity of thought and a grasp on emotion that, even if he cannot control it, he can express through his inexhaustive palette.
He readily admits he has no formal training, though he sees his lifetime of painting as training enough. His sister on the other hand did train in fine art, and for now her paintings are displayed proudly alongside his own. "Those will come down for the exhibition though," he laughed, "Because I'm not trying to sell her paintings, am I?" Though maybe I should have questioned whether he will be displaying in the toilet too, where one of his sister's paintings currently hangs.
"One was embarrassed and turned away, as his Dad said "What's that son? A bare bottom?" The other, however, was asked by his mother to pick out his favourite pictures in the entire gallery. He chose three of the nudes, probably because he saw something in the images he recognised in himself and his own form. But then his father joined the conversation and asked him the same question again. This time, the boy picked out different paintings, almost ashamed of what he had chosen honestly before." For Barry, the purity and innocence in the boy's first choice was more striking than anyone else's, because it underlined the innocence and purity of the human body, no matter how old the beholder. And that is what lies at the centre of all Barry's work - there is beauty everywhere, portrait or spatial, landscape or facial - all he does is make that clearer, by enriching the colour in everything he does. Because why wouldn't you want more colour in your life?