Ian Berry’s Instagram bio reads as follows: “Making art out of denim jeans. Not a denim artist.”
The distinction is important. Berry’s unique artwork stands out first and foremost for its realistic essence: the dramatic, if poignant, ways in which he reinterprets the world around him. It is only upon further inspection that you notice his unlikely choice of material: denim.
“My work isn’t all about it being denim,” Berry further touched upon the subject in one interview. “And while it often looks at community, I also set myself the challenge of using denim in a way that it no longer looks like denim, it becomes photorealistic.”
Using layers of denim (in its many varieties and forms), Berry constructs a blue, melancholic landscape that often depicts the more somber sides of modern-day living (a woman gazing through a window, a bartender working idly).
The choice of material, in that sense, reflects the subjects themselves. “I love the material because everyone can wear it, and most do,” says Berry. “In general, the beauty about jeans is that you don’t need to be an expert to feel comfortable wearing it and enjoy the experience.”
It is this low-brow, down-to-earth quality that makes his “paintings” resonate with a growing audience.
As for the creative process itself, Berry compares it to that of painting, but with textile rather than paint. “I do what painters usually do, play with the light and the dark,” he reflects.
“I have piles of denim in my studio: my friends’ jeans, jeans from charity shops, donations from denim brands and mills. My warehouse is organized by colors and it is growing bigger and bigger, so I can use a lot of shades.”