Denimu: the art of jeans

Denimu: the art of jeans

Huddersfield-born Ian Berry - aka Denimu - shows just what the upcycling artist can achieve with pairs of old jeans

Saturday Portobello by Ian Berry, Denim on Denim, 122x61cms

The photorealistic denim art of Ian Berry, known as Denimu, often depicts cityscapes, such as London's Portobello market in Saturday Portobello, above. The 35-year-old, who lives in Sweden, has major exhibitions at the Catto Gallery in London's Hampstead. See striking depictions of people (Debbie Harry, Ayrton Senna) and place, such as London, California and New York. Unfortunately for all of us, Berry has been well and truly discovered, so you can't pick up his work for a song anymore... prices from £5,000. 

He's the man who loves denim jeans so much he's turned them into an art form. And what an artform. Because when you first look at Ian Berry's work, you would assume he's painted his subjects, so subtle are the shadows, the light and the gradations of colour.

And yet they're made from scraps of denim jeans that friends donate to him or that Berry, who goes by the name of Denimu, picks up in high street charity shops. 

He's quick to add that he prefers to use jeans given to him by friends rather than buy up a charity store's entire stock .... 'I don't want to be accused of depriving poorer people of jeans, I know how expensive new jeans can be!' he says.

And the artist has got through literally thousands of pairs of this most ubiquitous item of clothing as he develops his extraordinary skill and inventiveness with the fabric.

The Brooklyn Diner, denim on denim, 122x61cms
The Commuters, 122x61cms
Silvercup, denim on denim, 110x41cms
The Gathering, 70x40cms
You'll may recognise the view from Primrose Hill if you're a Londoner.. First Sun, denim on denim, 200x60cms
Before the Party, 70-90cms
Yeh, 100x70cms
Shiny Sweets, 60x40cms.

Berry, who began his working life as an advertising art director, says he became inspired by denim some years back when he went home to Huddersfield to clear out his childhood bedroom.

He was confronted with a big pile of jeans destined for the charity shop when he felt a sudden affection for the clothes, which evoked strong memories of growing up. 'And I felt enthusiasm for the future,' he says, describing how he had a sudden eureka moment and wondered how he could put the fabric to artistic use.

Response to Berry's art has been hugely positive, and that's perhaps because denim is that most democratic of fabrics. 

Berry also thinks people can see just how labour-intensive his work is. 'I think people have become a bit suspicious of art that ..looks as if there's not much too it... and I'm not saying there isn't a lot to it.. but I get the feeling people like the fact that my art is painstaking, it can take months to complete a work.'

So he thinks the public want their pound of flesh when it comes to art... that we need to see that artists have the Protestant work ethic? 'I think some people can be a bit cynical and have a tendency to look at some art and think 'oh I could do something like that'...I'm not sure they look at my work and think that.'

Welcome to Utica. Denim and coloured jeans.
Ian Berry says he feels he is only just scratching the surface of using denim for his art

Jeans manage to represent both hard work and leisure, and they're clothing that crosses age, class and gender barriers and has yet to go out of fashion.

Well flares have gone out of fashion of course. But hopefully Berry has bought them all up and turned them into funky, edgy, super cool evocative art.