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Ian Berry - Denimu

Ian Berry was introduced to the Catto by one of the gallery's most admired artists, Colin Fraser. Here, Colin describes what he loves about Ian's work…

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 .

In each work, Ian carefully selects denim samples that he cuts, trims, tears and then glues to create works of astonishing 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.

Our engagement with the work is further flamed by the figures which often feature. They may also be made of denim but they feel real – and we speculate on their thoughts and preoccupations as they take their place in the busy scenes.

The graphic clarity of the pieces is further heightened the by typography displayed in many signs and billboards. These objects surprise and seduce us. We're bombarded by ads in our urban environments, yet to see them rendered so beautifully in Ian's denim is to see them for the first time. It's the same with the LP record covers, which show iconic images shaped in shades of blue to startling effect. And they do so without a hint of nostalgia or sentiment.

These 'denImages' succeed in moving the viewer on many levels. We are confounded by their physicality; we feel like we are part of the scene.

In Ian Berry's images, the cold cityscapes with their pubs, subway cars, advertising displays and neon signs are all rendered with a human touch. This humanity forces us to engage with aspects of the modern world that we would normally ignore.

When I walked into Ian's studio shortly before this show and saw the remarkable development in his work over the last two years, I was blown away! 

He is an artist of real talent and one who is certainly destined for great things.

Colin Fraser

ABOUT IAN…

During a big clear-out session at his childhood home in Huddersfield, aspiring artist Ian Berry found himself staring at a big pile of unwanted jeans destined for the charity shop. He was overcome by nostalgia and a tactile enthusiasm for the fabric. He'd found the key to his artistic career.

Ian worked hard to develop a new visual aesthetic based around this most democratic of materials. Soon, he had enough fans to leave a flourishing career as an art director – and to dedicate himself to his art full time from his studio in Sweden.

Not long after, Ian had successful exhibitions in Sweden, the US, Portugal and Denmark. In 2011, he wowed the UK with a sell-out show at the Catto. We'd never see crowds like it!

Not surprisingly, given his unique and accessible work, Ian has also enjoyed huge media attention. He's featured in over 40 magazines and papers all over of the world – from the Daily Mail to The Times, El Pais to Chile's La Tercera. He was named one of Art Business's '30 Under 30'. You might have seen him on BBC Breakfast too.

Such widespread attention has won Ian many commissions. The most prestigious of them all? A birthday present for 'world's best dressed man', Giorgio Armani.

Now, Ian is ready for his second show at his only UK gallery. Some of the work here has been previewed at art fairs in the US and Portugal. The pieces won huge acclaim – and now they are available to buy at last.

Get in quick.

NEWS STAND:

The News Stand is Ian Berry's unique and enthralling tribute to a fading relic of New York big city life. Throughout the boom years of the 20th Century, there was a news stand of every street corner, each displaying a kaleidoscope of newspapers and magazines. By 1950, there were 1600 of them. Today, thanks to changing work patterns and the rise of online media, the total is down to 300.

Ian's life-sized tapestry recreates the news stand in all its glory, featuring a range of instantly recognisable magazine icons rendered joyously in his trademark denim. It's a wonderful technical achievement with a great deal of heart too.

Critics loved News Stand when it toured the US earlier this year, with New Orleans Times Piqayune calling it: "The most wow inducing piece of the show…a masterpiece by anyone's standards."

RECORD STORE:

It's impossible to imagine rock and roll music without denim. From Elvis to heavy metal, via Dylan, hippies and punk, the pioneers of youth music have always worn jeans. Indeed, some of the most cherished album covers ever feature this artisan fabric: the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA to name just two. 

Sometimes, denim has defined an era. In 1975, for example, 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 Malcolm McLaren, who adapted it into punk – and it changed the world.

With his Record Store installation, Ian Berry celebrates the marriage of denim and rock history. He also makes a personal tribute to the heyday of the vinyl album and  fading retail sector all but eradicated by the digital download. His work lovingly recreates a display of classic LPs including the two mentioned above, plus The Clash's London Calling, The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night and 14 more.

Ian says: "Record stores were places of such atmosphere, and so rich in album art. The touchy-feely nature of LPs and being able to browse through them and discover new things...it was exciting. The high street is poorer without them."


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