Sometimes works by other artists are attached to the surface – a plain outline drawing of a man in his underpants, Casting Sexy Twinky Guy, from a series of gay porn drawings by Dutch artist Dorus Tossijn, who was at the Slade with Barrington, and who has also provided a small oil painting of Rihanna wearing a Giambattista Valli frock. Then there are the lines “I bless the rains down in Africa” from the hideous 1982 song Africa, by soft rock band Toto (inexplicably, the official video of the song has had more than 694m YouTube views), repeated over the surface of one painting, and lyrics from Rick James’s 1981 Ghetto Life printed across another.
Bristling with visual references and optical intrigue, low culture jokes and high-end art references, Barrington conflates the personal, the political, social issues and the idiosyncratic. Sometimes you have to get up close, squint and peer through the glazed surfaces to see the world within. The more I pick up on the details, the more lost I am. Look, there’s a helicopter. And here some Ellsworth Kelly plant drawings, redrawn by Barrington and with the letters ICU repeated over them. The initials standing both for Intensive Care Unit and the text message abbreviation for “I see you”. You look at his paintings, and they look at you.
Proceeding by intuition and calculation, Barrington plays the painting game at several simultaneous levels. People still talk about post-internet art, but all art is post-internet now. Although resolutely handmade, Barrington’s paintings belong to a world that is totally entangled with both the real and the virtual. His rafts of references and materials are heir to Robert Rauschenberg’s commodious approach, which predicted much of our interconnected world, without having the net to fall back on. It is impossible to say that Barrington is one of a generation ushering in a new species of painting, but he might be, even if it’s somewhere between a pig and a spider.