Born in Barbados in 1959, Ashley Bickerton has lived a nomadic life; one of adaptation and dispersal. With a practice transcending the label of any one movement or medium, Bickerton first rose to prominence in New York’s East Village scene in the early 1980’s when he spearheaded an influential alternative art movement alongside Jeff Koons, Peter Halley, and Meyer Vaisman, heralding a new style of geometric painting that rebelled against Neo-Expressionist trends.
In 1993, Bickerton emigrated to Kuta, Bali, where he has lived for the last 30 years: witnessing the island’s transformation from a once-remote idyllic refuge, to one of the busiest tourist destinations in the region.
His work has since become increasingly figurative and representational, turning his attention to reimagining art historical genres, while drawing inspiration from such artists as Paul Magritte, Salvador Dali, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, and many others. Keen in exploring the differences in representation between western and non-western cultures, he examines the exoticised Western perception of the island of Bali and its inhabitants, while weaving a dense web of ironies into his body of work.
Still, his work consistently demonstrates a critical awareness of his surroundings. Elaborate sets are constructed in his studio and garishly dressed models, often his own family, are carefully placed into these settings and photographed. Everything is adorned and nothing is sacred. Selected shots are subsequently transformed into inkjet paintings on canvas, which he further manipulates by applying pigments and adding found objects by hand.
Today, Bickerton’s practice encompasses painting, sculpture, installation, and “paintingthings”, which challenge the very notion of a painting, most notably seen in his Wall-Wall series. Bickerton’s delve into bronze and aluminium sculpture began in 2014 at Yogya Art Lab (YAL), with the life-sized Wahine Pa’ina cast in 2015, and Shark newly released in early 2020.
Ashley Bickerton will remain an influential diasporic artist, contributing his unflinching perspective to contemporary Southeast Asian and North American Art, and continuing to provoke, discomfort and tantalise audiences – even as the world continues its charge toward oblivion.