At first glance, many believe that Ian Berry’s works are blue-toned photographs or indigo coloured oil paintings. This happens not only when they are viewed online or in print, where much of the depth and detail is lost, but even when they’re inches away in person. Even at touching distance, many people don’t realise that they are looking at many layers and shades of denim jeans. This, of course, is a testament to his work. Denim is simply Ian’s medium for seeing the world. This timeless fabric is his paint, and what better material to use to portray the modern world, with all its symbols and dualities? Not to mention that it is such a common, borderless item of clothing that unites many around the globe by creating a shared aesthetic.
Seeing these jean creations up close, you become aware of their startling depth and texture, and realise how each small piece of denim has been painstakingly considered and lovingly crafted out of jeans with different washes and fades, all of which contribute to the painterly tone. This is no gimmick. The creation of a shiny metallic surface, subtle frown lines, or a polished countertop out of denim is a staggering thing to see accomplished.
Ian composes melancholic urban scenes, often depicting a lonely or less glamorous side of city living. He believes that because denim is now such an urban fabric, despite its rural origins, what better way to capture everyday urban life? It is hard to believe that all this started with a simple, almost fleeting observation when he noticed a pile of old jeans, with their contrasting yet complementary tones and textures condensed together. Some scissors and glue later, he had become one of the most talked about young artists around the world.
Whilst he acknowledges that it all started out as an experiment, he gradually came to realise his own connection with jeans – especially other people’s. It’s a fabric we feel so comfortable with, and that we come into contact with every day. He had found his way to communicate, and was soon being written about as one of the ‘Top 30 Artists Under 30 in the World’. His success has caught many eyes, and even though the making of each denim picture is a painstaking process, he’s been able to take a few select commissioned portraits: Debbie Harry, Jennifer Saunders, Giorgio Armani and Lapo Elkann, and Brazilian model Giselle to name a few.
His most well-known, however, was of another Brazilian, Ayrton Senna, using the late racing icon’s family’s jeans, and in support of the institute in the driver’s name. Ian’s work has been showcased in many countries around the globe, giving a huge number of people a chance to see these unique artworks in person. With a number of sold-out solo shows in London and Sweden, he has also had exhibits across Europe and the United States, including the spiritual home of the modern jean, San Francisco. He has shown across contemporary galleries, big art fairs like for example during Miami Basel along side also showing at big denim events and Textile art fairs as he, like denim, crosses many boundaries.
Major media outlets have been quick to cover these global tours, and the captivation of Ian’s rapidly growing fan base.