DENIM is an unusual material for artists to work with but one man has made a name for himself using old jeans – quite literally.
Ian Berry is best known as Denimu and the Netherton-born artist, who now lives in Sweden, is returning to the UK for his first exhibition on homeground at the Catto Gallery, London, from April 19.
But while it’s the first exhibition of his work in the UK, Denimu is already an emerging name in the international art world with top galleries lining-up to stage his collections and his work fetching thousands on the art market.
Not bad for someone who first had the idea to make his collections out of denim while clearing out his old room at the Huddersfield home of parents, Christine and Eddie.
Ian went to Newsome High School and Greenhead College and spent two years at Huddersfield University before transferring to Buckinghamshire to study advertising.
He worked in advertising until the call came from mum Christine to clear out his old room – and it’s there he discovered piles of old jeans which have now become his signature.
Denimu takes a fabric most commonly worn as jeans or a jacket, and makes works of art with it – he sometimes cuts up his own jeans to add to his stunning creations.
And they have to be seen to be believed – for his stunning cityscape, snapshots of everyday life or iconic images leave people amazed that such images are created from pieces of discarded denim.
Ian, who continues to follow Huddersfield Town from afar, spoke to the Examiner from his home in Skåne, southern Sweden.
He said: “It was about six or seven years ago my mum was clearing out my old room and she wanted me to go through my things.
“I found loads of old jeans and denims and I noticed the different colours and shades.
“I kept hold of them but it was only about 18 months later I began to do something with them.”
In fact it was after he took a massive risk to leave his job and work full time as an artist that he finally dug out his old jeans.
“My girlfriend’s parents asked at the time if artists could make a living out of art,” he added. “It was a big risk to leave a job behind because art was something of a hobby before then.”
Ian had previously worked as a creative artist for advertising agencies in London and Sydney and whilst in Australia he met his Swedish partner, Asa.
He worked creating campaigns for brands such as Nissan, Guinness and Talisker Whiskey, but the call of the old, ripped up denim was too deafening to ignore.
He began to create visual art with the materials and the art-loving public caught on and his gamble to leave a steady job paid off.
Two near sell-out shows in Sweden were followed by shows in the US and Portugal.
His work has since sold across Europe, America and Australasia to private, public and corporate collections, and has been featured in art and fashion magazines from Elle to Playboy.
But although Ian has exhibited all over the world, his work has never been on show in his home country – until now.
Ian admitted to feeling nervous about the launch, saying: “I’m more nervous than excited at the moment, everything is being transferred there by plane so the nerves may ease once the pieces arrive.