(b. 1959, Barbados – d. 2022, Bali, Indonesia)
Ashley Bickteron is a Barbados-born American artist known for his baroque multimedia approach to exploring contemporary society. Having moved house across four continents while growing up, and migrating permanently from America to his current residence in Kuta, Bali, Bickerton’s peregrine lifestyle has been a central influence upon his compositions. As a fresh graduate from the California Institute of the Arts in 1982, Bickerton’s career began in New York where he was a member of the famous Neo-Geo Group during the 1980s. While in America, his compositions featured industrial materials, found objects and screen printed images such as corporate logos titled as ‘Anthropospheres’, ‘Commercial Pieces’ or even ‘Self Portraits’.
In many ways, despite making a radical departure from New York to Bali in 1993 and exploring different themes in his works, a contrarian, challenging spirit has stayed the same in Bickerton’s diverse and versatile oeuvre. His Bali paintings have come to be identified by a new trademark “blue man”, an alien figure sporting the artist’s face decked out in holiday clothing, complete with hair styled into coconut trees on a sandy beach. Fed up with being suspected of a Gauguinian escape, the blue man is Bickerton’s tongue-in-cheek rebuttal – “If anything,” says the artist, “the take is an acute manifestation of high postmodern irony. Who is this blue man in some works? He is a parody […]”. In his self-aware depictions of relationships of exploitation (and perhaps counter-exploitation) between the local and the foreign, man and woman, Bickerton flips these stereotypes on their heads. There are too many questions being confronted in Ashley’s works, too many ways to read meaning into them; anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for will be met by a disdainful painted lady with boldly painted lips and a flower behind her ear – Ashley Bickerton’s implicit flipping of the bird.
For an artist who is recognised for series of works as singular and distinct as ‘Susie boxes’, deconstructed ‘Culturescapes’, ‘Wall-Wall’, ‘Joan and the Cosmos’-style farfetched realism, shark sculptures, the ‘blue man’ and ‘silver ladies’, ‘Flotsam Paintings’ and more, it is perhaps only through his own words that his oeuvre can be summarised. Namely, that “in a long and often breathless career, I feel I’ve pursued every reckless tangent with utterly no fidelity to any stylistic cohesion, but nevertheless in this tangle I knew inherently there was a larger overarching language that was distinctly my own.”
Ashley Bickerton’s work has been collected by the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Britain (London), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo), among others.