Silver-skinned Balinese women adorned in luscious tropical flowers have long been signature subjects in Ashley Bickerton’s oeuvre. Having lived as an American expatriate in Bali for almost 30 years, Bickerton initially depicted these women in the early 2010s as highly polished, nymph-like creatures against idyllic island backgrounds; their hollow gazes and glistening skin serving as a sly critique on the exoticism and ‘paradise’ ideal plaguing the Western tourist culture in Bali. Yet, true to Ashley’s artistic vision, this subject never remains stagnant—perpetually transforming as she recurs in his work over the years.
In Girl with Stripes, bright orange, green, turquoise and hints of yellow paint cover the woman’s face, bringing vibrancy and life to this previously cold, robotic subject. Unlike in his older work, her expression is neither vacuous nor unnervingly sinister: Here, her smile is soft, almost like a smirk. Her gaze is calm, with eyes appearing as if they held a secret hidden from the viewer. Radiating gentle confidence and enigma, the woman commands a subtle sense of power that critically complicates the dynamic between subject, maker and audience.