Barrett Bryan: Cinematic Painting

Painting bright, abstract works, Tulsa artist, Barrett Bryan has come into his own. His newest paintings set a stage, then fill it with anything from dark figures, to cars, fire, or a surreal living room where a hand protrudes from the ceiling and dangles a chandelier. 

Bryan, who signs his works under the simple alias, “Bearly,” thinks of his work in stages. 

From Bryan's Sketches

“I was copying Keith Haring when I first started,” Bryan said, in a tone edged by partial self-deprecation. Bryan’s work developed from what he described as “abstract stuff that didn’t have any rhyme or reason,” into a kind of experimentation with color that crystallized into more figurative scenes like the ones he produces now. 

“Just recently, I’ve been moving away from the bold colors to capture more darkness,” Bryan said of his current stage. “I’ve been toning the colors down more, and painting little images that pop into my head.” 


Acrylic layers give his newest works depth. Base-layer shapes peak out as a carpet beneath darker walls of color. Strange settings gel and form into something less than familiar, as in his untitled painting (shown above) where the viewer is both drawn in and repulsed by the odd scene. 

In his painting, “Noir,” bright purples and yellows contrast with a lone, dark-blue car sitting below a skyline of bare, impressionistic buildings and one giant green duck staring down on it all. 


The surrealist scenes Bryan creates seem alive with disjointed stories. Looking at some of his most recent paintings is like following the plot of a mystery that goes static every few minutes, requiring the viewer to make sense of a bizarre narrative where the meaning has been fuzzed out. 

This feeling perhaps comes from the fact that Bryan takes much inspiration from movies. Bryan—who makes and scores his own films when he isn’t painting—cites David Lynch as one of his favorite directors alongsideWong Kar-Wai, Ingmar Berman, and Robert Altman to name a few. 

“I like movies that aren’t corporatized,” Bryan said. “When you can see the director has their hands down the throat of that project, that’s what I like.” 

Bryan is exercising some of that meticulous, directorial control in his paintings, making this cinematic influence clear in his work. Even if the plot isn’t explicit and the characters’ features are vague, the viewer begins to guess at a story. What the viewer gleens is less of a concrete narrative and more of a mood, a tone, a loose impression. 

In “Angel at the Door” the shadowy religiousness of the imagery is incongruous with the flying figure above an odd-shaped house. The angel is light, but there is something foreboding in the dark ocean it stands on. 

Angel at the Door

“I’m always digging,” Bryan said of his process. “I’m always like ‘what’s the next thing.’ There is self reflection and self discovery, and hopefully now I’m at a point where it’s like ok, how can I self-reflect but also communicate to other people.” 

Bryan is one to watch in the Tulsa art scene. Check out more of his work on Instagram @bearisok, and visit his website to purchase pieces. You can also view his short-films on his Youtube channel.