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Ian Berry (previously known as Denimu) is a British born artist based in Poplar, East London [1][2] He creates artwork solely from denim; re-using jeans, jackets, and other denim clothing to create portraits, urbanscapes and other unique works.[3][4][5][6]

Denimu
DenimuArtist.jpg
Ian Berry with Artwork
Born
Ian Berry

1984
NationalityBritish
MovementArte Povera, Collage, Denim Art, Textile Art, Fiber Art
Websitewww.ianberry.org

In 2013, Ian Berry was named as one of Art Business News "30 under 30" influential artists in the world.[7][8]

Ian has dropped using the Denimu name he went by in the early years and just goes by his real name, Ian Berry[9]

Ian was born in Huddersfield, Kirklees, England in 1984.[10][11] (he was previously based in Landskrona, Sweden [12][13][14][3] as well as Sydney, Australia)[15]

Contents

Early careerEdit

Ian Berry began experimenting with art while at university and then while working at TMW as an art director.[16] In advertising he worked on brands like the RAF, Nissan, Guinness, British Airways and Talisker whiskey[17][18]

While first experimenting with denim at the end of university he carried on while working as an art director in London, he then left to work in Australia. Berry started to work full-time on his artwork when he moved to Sweden from Australia.[16]

As well as London his artwork has been featured in galleries and Art Fairs across Sweden, Portugal (Calheta Madeira), United States (New Orleans, Miami, Fairmount, Asbury Park, Hamptons, Portland, San Francisco, Paducah).[16][19][20][21]

MediumEdit

Ian Berry's works with textile, denim.[22] He told Selvedge Magazine how 'you can't mix denim like you can paint'[23]

His process involves cutting, stitching, and gluing various shades of denim to provide contrast and shadow.[16][24][25][26] Even at touching distance, many viewers don't realise that they are looking at many layers, and shades, of denim jeans.[27] Many people compare it to Photorealism, but just with denim, not paint.[28][29][30][31][32]'your first impression is that of an indigo coloured oil painting, or a photograph in blue.'[32][33][10]

In real life the pieces are very layered and three dimensional, something that gets lost once views online or in print.[32] Many people can believe they are made of denim.[34]

Fellow artist Colin Fraser described Ian's technique as 'Ian uses denim as a painter uses paint, but with a difference: he makes what I call ‘denImages’. The entire surface of these works is made from denim. The scissors are Ian's paint brush and he handles them with virtuosity.[35]

In each work, the artist carefully selects denim samples that he cuts, trims, tears and then glues to create works of depth and space. This depth pushes the boundaries of conventional central perspective by building up layers that reach out from the picture plane and draw us in to look again.[35]

The Vice Creators Project wrote he 'develops his work by selecting individual pieces of denim and certifying each is a unique wash. Afterward, all the many denim parts are layered to produce a three-dimensional collage effect. All together, the pieces collate into an established image from afar, bringing together light, color, and many of the elements of classic painting style.'[36]

Ian has a studio in Poplar, East London where he has thousands of pairs of jeans organised in a palette from light to dark, he gets many donations from brands, denim mills, as well as looking in charity shops, vintage store yet start with his own jeans, then his friends, then their friends. Now he gets packages from around the world [37][10][38][39]

The IdeaEdit

The idea came from a simple observation when he was back at his family home in Huddersfield. His Mum knew he was never moving home so had cleared and sorted some of his room. There was a pile of denim where he noticed the different shades of indigo.[40]

He started to think of his relationship with denim and remembered a time when he was 14 and had to wear chords at a family party, and when he got there everyone was wearing jeans and even now, its the only material he feel really comfortable wearing and so it became the only medium he felt comfortable using.[38]

Denim, The Material of Our TimeEdit

It is often said that denim is the most democratic of fabrics, and he really feel like that he can tap into this, and he can communicate with people as there is something about the denim that draws them in, even if they find the work unusual, it is still something familiar. You don't need to be a connoisseur to enjoy denim, anyone can wear it he says. While it started as a very rural material, 'I feel now it is a very urban one, and the layers of urban life is what interests me and what I portray, so what better material is there to depict our contemporary life, than with the material of our time.' [23]

As he portrays the changes in our cities, often depicting places that are closing down or at risk of with using denim he is adding a comment on the fading fabric of the urban environment".[37][1][10]

MovementEdit

While many reports talk about it being made of only denim, Ian said "It is not about it being about denim. It’s just my medium. Yes, it helps, but it’s not about the material foremost. I see it as very much an urban material now. I love urban society and all the layers and depth within it and for me, what better way to portray contemporary life and issues than with the material of our time."[36]

Ian's pieces are so detailed many talk of his work in terms of photorealism.[41][22] Levis unzipped said 'from a distance, indigo's high contrast and gradient fades create a stunning illusion of depth, light, and ultimately, photorealism.'[42]

Ian Said “Admittedly at the beginning I often used parts like the pockets and seams to kind of say, 'Hey look, it's denim,' but now I use all those parts in a way to not show it's denim. Sometimes, this has been too successful though. [It’s] maybe a compliment when people mistake it for a photo-realistic painting, but often people don’t get to the ‘aha!’ factor when the penny drops—it's denim!"[36]

Fiona McCarthy of the Sunday Times said 'one of a number of artists fusing the slightly loftier world of art with the often (unjustifiably) denigrated world of craft. Like Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and Chuck Close before him, Berry is pushing the boundaries of Textiles as a medium, producing photorealistic denim collages depicting everyday scenes.[43]

Photorealism is a movement or genre that brings together various kinds of art form where the artist recreates an image or photograph (after close observation) as realistically as his skills enable him to. The movement became increasingly popular in the last century, and over the last couple of decades has seen tremendous change with digital machinery making it a near-precise art.[44] Ian does base his work of photography, photographs that he took and set up the scene.[23]

Ian Berry is a Contemporary Artist but his work has also been talked about in the context of Arte Povera,[45] Collage,[46][47][43] and also with his medium being denim Textile Art, Fiber Art, [15][48][49][23][50][51] and while not using quilting techniques many quilters follow Ian and he is often mentioned in that context.[52][53][54][55]

Ian work has also often been talked about in the context of Eco-Art, Upcycling and Recycling[56][57][58][59][60][39]

WorkEdit

He lives in London and portrays the city he is surrounded by depicting the changing urban life[61][60] he also did a body of work on USA urban living with the American Jean[67] which was based mainly on New York. He had seen that in many cities, the places that were meeting places for the community were changing, closing down for bigger development or left empty.[1] Pubs were closing down, launderettes left empty, diners being replaced. He often depicted the places with scenes of loneliness.[15]

Some of his major bodies of work are below.

Behind Closed DoorsEdit

Ian Berry's 2016 London solo show was a big success. The gallery had said "it’s easy to get carried away with the novelty of the medium and forget that, first and foremost, Ian Berry is an artist with something to say. Well, in this two-part show he is speaking loud and clear."[62] Art Critic Tabish Khan wrote it was a top 5 London Exhibition for Fad magazine 'What Berry can do with denim is astonishing. He creates multi-layered paintings, his attention to detail is superb and this exhibition is an impressive feat'[63][31]

The scenes are the ubiquitous life of London residents that form the creative foundation for a series of poignant pieces of art made of azure and bright navy swatches of denim. Framed within the lonely enclaves of home life, the settings of many of the graceful, hyper-detailed portraits are fixated on an isolated interior. Wide, cinematic tableaus of a woman just waking up to bright sunlight is mirrored in two other similarly evocative visuals of a sleeping girl in a rumpled camisole. The collages of day-to-day life filled out in the medium of denim portrayed a perfect life, almost like a page from a interior design magazine however the lonely figure offered a melancholic view that materialistic possession doesn't make a happy life.

[1][15][64][65][66][67][68][68][69]

My Beautiful LaunderetteEdit

By the end of the 1970s there were around 12,500 in the country. That number has now slumped to 3,000, 450 here in London. On one photoshoot Ian went back to one he had only visited on a recce the week before only to discover it boarded up. Ian portrayed the interior of launderettes in Crisp Street Market, Poplar, Bow, Ladbroke Grove and Holloway Road in London.

The body of work was a comment on the declining launderettes and what they meant to the community they served.

The title of the show was borrowed from a film based on the screenplay of Hanif Kureishi, shot in the mid 80's My Beautiful Launderette directed by Stephen Frears captured a mood London at the time, the cultural tensions and the economic change but central to the film was the launderette, one scene depicts a crowd of customers gathering outside, impatient to be let in. Launderettes are now no longer like this.

The 'showstopper'[31] was the installation however. Where people could interact and take photos and selfies and sit down and pretend they were waiting for their laundry. Ian made with set builder Luke Aan de Wiel and whole life sized denim launderette with washing machines, dryers, tiled floors and walls, posters and instructions all made in denim.

[22][70][71][22]

Secret GardenEdit

This interactive installation titled the Secret Garden that you could walk through, on top of a denim path that was filled with various flowers and plants, from roses to cacti, wisteria to chrysanthemum that hung down like a trellis, was shown at the Children's Museum of the Arts New York in 2017.

The installation for the Bridge Project was inspired by thinking of childhood. Immediately Ian thought of playing outside at his Yorkshire hometown. He believed children play less outside and interact and look less at the nature around. Children have new technology with iPads. He had stated that while he was making the Behind Closed Doors piece, he was thinking of a woman with a perfect home but the children had grown up, leaving the nest empty. The home depicted in the picture, there was a garden at the back. It made him think of the garden being full of the laughter of kids playing once upon a time and now the empty nest. As children would come to the garden in denim with their parents he wanted them to look at being in a garden differently and as in New York seek out a Community Garden together.

He wanted to draw attention to the community gardens as a meeting place and a location to enjoy being outside.

Ian also used some of the last fabric that the USA had produced to make the installation. After 112 years of production, Cone Mills, a historic denim mill in America, announced it would close its White Oak plant in North Carolina. As the last major manufacturer of selvage denim in the United States, its final products served as relics for newer generations to learn about in this exhibition.

It was also used as an example of sustainability. Ian worked with Tonello, the Italian laundry manufacturer and technology company. He used their laser machines in this work to cut many of the pieces made for the trellis, and used the ozone washing to colour the denim. These are now some of the new tools for the denim industry.

In the opening to the garden, Ian shows a cotton plant and explained that this is where the jeans we wear first comes from. The headline was from plants to pants, to plants again.

[72][48][47][73][74][75][76][77][78][1][79][80][59]

Record StoreEdit

In 2013 Ian Berry turned the gallery into a vintage record store. It was in response to the changing High Street and the loss of a lot of independent Record Stores in the UK, where many in the music community and like minded people would meet. The whole of the gallery window was turned into a vinyl store. It was filled with records, tee shirts, records and framed albums. It wasn't just any albums however, they were all chosen for their connection to the denim story.

Rock and Roll music and denim have gone together through time.[81] With Elvis to heavy metal, Bob Dylan, hippies and punk, the pioneers of youth music have worn jeans. Many of the most famous album covers of all time feature this artisan fabric: the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA for example. In 1975, the musicians who hung around a New York bar called CBGB started to crop their hair and rip their jeans. The look was spotted by musician and designer Malcolm McLaren, who adapted it into punk back in London with the Sex Pistols. Ian was portraying much of this history. He spoke with Robert Elms about the albums, who he had met most of the people and bands depicted in the albums.

Warhol said of the denim: “I wish I could invent something like blue jeans. Something to be remembered for.” Of course, he went on to design the jeans close-up cover for the Stones’ Sticky Fingers album.

[82]

In 2018 Ian brought the Record Store back together in the US to make a whole high street, including the launderette (changed to Laundromat) and the Secret Garden (changed to a community garden) together with a gallery showing some of Ian's pieces.[1]

Other well known works include the Newsstand installation[83][84][85] and the CCTV Surveillance piece.[86][48][87][1]

PortraitsEdit

Ian Berry has made many portraits but has turned down most. He does portraits where the person has to have a connection to denim, and be respected and not just celebrity.[88]

Ayrton SennaEdit

Ian Berry was commissioned to make a portrait of the late Formula One racing driver, Ayrton Senna, in 2015 to commemorate the 20th year of his passing. He immortalized Ayrton in denim, including jeans from the family of Ayrton who look after his legacy with the Instituto Ayrton Senna. The piece was unveiled in São Paulo, Brazil before the Grand Prix to the press and family and was met with positive reviews.[88][89][90] The piece subsequently traveled around the world including to Amsterdam, Birmingham, Silverstone, Singapore, Rio, Barcelona Grand Prix, Turin at Adplog, at Williams, Hungary and Monaco[91][92]

Respected Motorsport journalist Maurice Hamilton said 'I'm not in the least surprised that Ayrton's sister, Viviane, found it difficult to contain her emotions when she saw the work for the first time during an official unveiling last year. And the nice thing is that the entire project has been associated with the Ayrton Senna Foundation, for which Viviane and the family continue to do such good work in the name of underprivileged children in Brazil. There's a short but moody video on YouTube [93] showing the unassuming and hugely talented Berry at work.'[94]

At one Event in Birmingham there was an emotional showing and presentation of the people by many who knew Ayrton closely like David Coulthard, who replaced Ayrton in the team after he died in 1994, Allan McNish who had been his test driver as well as a former F1 driver and David Brabham who was in the same Imola race when Ayrton died.[95]

Paul Weaver at the Guardian called it 'Berry's finest creation' and called the piece 'Stunning'. He also spoke how Ian didn't sign the piece 'as it wasn't about me, its about Ayrton' but Ayrton's mother insisted he signed it.[96]

Ian liked the idea that it was the families jeans that made up his image, as they are the ones that are carrying on his legacy with the charity and also licensing and protecting his image. He also spoke how he had worked with denim brands, and was often seen in denim but what he especially loved is that like denim, Ayrton transcended so many people and demographics, but was ultimately a man of the people and denim represented that well.

Debbie HarryEdit

In 2013 Luxxotica launched a new Ray Ban Wayfarer, all made in denim and worked with Ian Berry. At a launch party in New York Blondie performed and as part of the show a portrait of its leading lady, Debbie Harry was unveiled. Ian wanted to do the commission as Debbie Harry was a big part of the CBGB bands down the Bowery in the 70's. It was this group of bands that changed the history of music, but also denim.[97] Debbie harry was also one of the first to be seen to wear double denim[98] The portrait got rave reviews and reactions from the media on the opening night.[99][100][100][101][102][103][104]

Ian became friends with Blondie's Guitarist Tommy Kessler and made his jacket that he has worn on stage since 2013 including at glastonbury, UK.

Giorgio ArmaniEdit

Ian was commissioned to do a portrait of Giorgio Armani for a birthday gift from the Creative Director.[105][60]

Lapo ElkannEdit

Ian made a portrait of Lapo Elkann that now hangs above his desk. Elkann, is an Italian entrepreneur and grandson of Gianni Agnelli, the former controlling CEO and controlling shareholder of Fiat Automobiles.[106] He is a big denim fan and had made a denim upholstery for a Diesel-edition Fiat 500[107] as well as a Smeg fridge all in denim. Vanity Fair magazine listed Elkann in its International Best Dressed List in 2008, and added him to its Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 2009. In an article with DuJour in 2013 Elkann said it was one of his 'prized possessions'.[108]

Eunice Olumbide MBEEdit

Ian made a portrait of his friend Eunice Olumbide in the year she got her MBE. Olumbide MBE is a Scottish supermodel, actress and curator. She is one of the first black Scottish models dedicating her life to arts and charity.Ian made the piece for her Switch exhibition.[109][110] The Exhibition was linked with Fuel Poverty Action a grassroots campaign taking action against mammoth fuel bills and working towards an affordable, sustainable and democratic energy system.[111]

OtherEdit

Ian's early works have featured Icons of Denim such as James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, in fact one of the first pieces he did was of Debbie Harry, and he stated it was nice in later years to get the actually commission to do her portrait. Ian also went on to work with The Estate of James Dean and the James Dean Gallery to create a mural for Dean's hometown of Fairmount, Indiana.[6][112][113][114] In the early years Ian did the portraits of the people because of their connection in the denim story.

Media appearancesEdit

PrintEdit

Ian Berry has been featured in publications across the world including The Times,[115][116][14][4] 'Material Boy'The Sunday Times Style magazine,[43] 'Jeanius' Time Out London,[60][5] 'Jeanius' Daily Mail,[117] Nylon,[118][119] Elle, Playboy, 'Incredible' Juxtapoz,[84][24] 'the press call him a 'Jeanius'' El Pais, Metro International, Official Site of James Dean, and the Huffington Post.[13][6][120][121][122]

TVEdit

He has been featured on international TV shows including

BBC Breakfast

BBC London

BBC World[123]

ITV London News show London Tonight

RTP Portugal show Casa das Artes

RTL Boulevard Holland

Al Jazeera

Al Arabiya

Euromaxx Germany

Nyhetsmorgan Sweden's national TV4 morning show

Sky Sports News

Globo Brazil

[124][125][126][127]

QuotesEdit

EducationEdit

Ian Berry believes in art and creativity in education and has given a lot of time to schools, colleges and universities.[128] He has given lectures all around the world and as well as the UK has spoke in the USA[129] Sweden[130] Brazil, Holland[131] as well as giving workshops[132] Many schools do projects on Ian Berry and children are inspired to make works in denim like him.[133] Many education magazines have featured Ian's work including Scholastic,[134] arts&activities,[135] Science & Vie[136] as well as National Geographic in Brazil and BBC Newsround in the UK.

Ian was so committed to this cause that he exhibited at the Children's Museum of Art New York where he showed the Secret Garden in 2017.[48] In 2018 he travelled the United States and gave lectures in many schools[137] and when he found that many students were inspired to do his work, but didn't have the correct equipment so Ian arranged for many companies to step in and donate tools like scissors, denim and rotary cutters.[138] Many Children, parents and teachers send him examples of their work inspired from him.[73]

Most of Ian's family are or were teachers.[48]

DenimuEdit

Ian Berry dropped the Denimu name he had used at the beginning of his career [139][140]

GalleryEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit