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Ashley Bickerton: ‘Looking for Something Beyond’

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Contemporary artist Ashley Bickerton lived a nomadic childhood, his family moving countries regularly for his father's research into Creole and Pidgin languages. Feeling a need to once again 'recontextualise myself' after a childhood travelling, Bickerton moved from New York, the 'crucible' of his art life, to Bali mid-career. He describes how this unique environment seeped into his practice and the implications of his move -- not least in that 'once you run off to a bloody island to make art', the nineteenth century figure of Paul Gauguin becomes an inevitable art historical comparison to address. How does his series of 'intentionally silly' paintings, depicting a blue-skinned European antihero against tropical backdrops, critique the legacy of Gauguin?

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Ashley Bickerton (b. 1959, Barbados, West Indies; lives and works in Bali, Indonesia) was an original member of a group of artists known as Neo-Geo, which emerged in New York during the 1980s. In 1993, he left New York for Bali, Indonesia, where his work took on a distinct tropical exoticism often in sharp contrast to his Neo-Geo work, which was an abstract and geometric exploration of consumerism and industrialisation. However, Bickerton’s investigation of materiality remained a consistent thread throughout his practice. Often blurring the boundaries between media, genre, and subject (photography and sculpture; portraiture and landscape; realism and fantasy), he challenges the parameters of art making, calling into question the value and significance of the art object itself.

Bickerton received his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1982 and continued his education in the independent studies program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Solo shows of his work have been organized at Newport Street Gallery, London (2017); The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2017); and Palacete del Embarcadero, Autoridad Portuaria de Santander, Spain (1997).

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