The year 2020 was a challenging one for everyone around the world and it presented a unique set of obstacles for artists to overcome. For London-based Ian Berry, who has masterfully worked exclusively in denim for the last 15 years, the COVID-19 pandemic put an unexpected halt to his creative schedule. As a professional artist whose workflow includes photo shoots for him to capture original images to recreate in denim, all of his sessions had to be canceled. And with a number of upcoming museum exhibits expecting new work, Berry had to take quick action and inspiration from his limited surroundings.
Berry, who had been exploring themes of isolation for many years, found yet another opportunity to expound on this universal state of solitariness and loneliness being felt all across the globe at the same time. Just before the lockdown, he was working on a mid-career retrospective show that featured a number of photorealistic denim pieces that displayed lonely scenes in public and private places—a woman having a drink by herself at a bar, a single person at the laundromat, someone sitting by themselves on a staircase in a big, empty home. Quarantine proved to be the perfect continuation of this theme that many more people could relate to, now more than ever.
“I was building on Behind Closed Doors for the show,” Berry tells My Modern Met, “but all the shoots were canceled. They were to be at some quite well-known people’s homes. But it dawned on me, when I lived in Sweden, I would fly to London to take photos to work from. When I moved to London, I would go to LA. I think I suddenly realized a lot more of what was around me—be it a little forced by lockdowns. And then life imitated art.”
Rather than focusing on other people’s homes or public social grounds, Berry narrowed his scope to his very own quarters. Thus, Lockdown Living Room was born. Again working exclusively with jeans, the brilliant artist went about recreating his entire living room in denim. Everything from the rug, couch, and lounge chair to the wall paintings, plants, and records are made of varying shades of the durable textile. There is indescribable depth and texture to each creation, gained through skillfully shaping and layering old jeans. Every piece is a three-dimensional work of art on its own.
As with any of Berry’s installations, photos do not do his work justice. Arnoud van Aalst, director of Museum Rijswijk, says, “Once we got to his gallery and saw the show, our jaws just dropped. The social engagement was clear as day, but when you zoom into the details of each piece you realize that they are all built up with layers and layers of denim—something that is not clear on a photograph.”