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A Solo Exhibition by Ashely Bickerton: ‘Heresy or Codswallop’


Published by Sugar & Cream, Wednesday 20 January 2021

Text & images courtesy of Gajah Gallery Singapore

Gajah Gallery Singapore: 20 January – 14 February 2021

“If any audience is truly interested in following they have to take my entire trajectory into account. Individual moments are not the most interesting part; it’s the overarching hunger and restlessness of the journey, and if one zooms out far enough, the constant patterns that have been there throughout begin to emerge and reveal themselves”.  –Ashley Bickerton

Apex Species, Apex Moment. Before the Fall. Mother (2018) – Oil and acrylic on canvas – 210 x 197 x 8.5 cm

Gajah Gallery is proud to announce “Heresy or Codswallop”, the second solo exhibition in Singapore for the internationally acclaimed Bali-based American artist, Ashley Bickerton. Presenting one of the most comprehensive surveys of his work to date, “Heresy or Codswallop” brings together the last decade of Bickerton’s practice, featuring works from 2011 to the present day.

T17nEXP, (2018) – Oil and acrylic on jute in artist designed wood frame inlaid with mother of pearl, bamboo & found objects – 222 x 212 x 13.5 cm

Known for his work in the early 1980’s New York East Village scene, Bickerton worked alongside Jeff Koons, Peter Halley, and Meyer Vaisman, amongst others, to spearhead an alternative to the Neo-Expressionist, commercially lucrative Soho mainstream. “Heresy or Codswallop” re-contextualizes Bickerton’s work, rewritten here as wholly Southeast Asian with a similar ‘outsider’ presence, working away from the Indonesian art centres of Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

Tropical Fever Dream, (2017) – Oil and acrylic on canvas with artist made frame – 165 x 244 cm

In 1993, Bickerton left New York for Bali, Indonesia, and since then has observed the dilution and transformation of a remote island to an international tourist destination. Bickerton draws from the cross-pollination of culture and its widespread decay, to explore the reality of the ‘island utopia’ as a de-cultured touristic locale that has been reconstructed to feed the westernized paradise ideal.

Fat Man, (2019) – Silicon, bronze, stainlees steel rod, metal and wood base – 170 x 41 x 46 | Shark, (2019) – Cast bronze, Edition of 3 + 1 Artist Proof – 139 x 140 x 262 cm

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Since his move, several elements frequently appear – one, the blue man, a caricature of the stereotypical Western traveler, an ‘alien in paradise’; another, painted silver-white women, amalgamations with Pacific and Southeast Asian influences – ‘trophy wives’ Posing in typical tourist settings—in bars, or lazing around on hammocks at the beach—these paintings reflect a satirical look at our fetishization of what we deem ‘exotic’. Yet the irony of the situation is not lost on Bickerton, who often uses family and friends as the models for these personas – the silver lady often played by his wife, Balinese herself, and the Blue Man a self- portrait.

Wall – Wall (Waiting-Waiting…), (2019) – Oil. acrylic, enamel, metal flake and resin on plywood with alumunium – 190 x 170 x 23 cm 

Through his sculptural works, Bickerton explores other facets of island-life:TITNW5 features an imposing large coral-like exterior, hiding the sordid underbelly of a hedonistic tourist industry; and the awe-inspiring Shark evokes the power inherent in the creature, presented here as a totemic object of ritual from regions beyond.

TITNW5, (2011) – Acrylic, digital print, bamboo, wood, fibreglass – 162,5 x 180,3 x 50,58 cm

The flotsam paintings are Bickerton’s latest works, depicting beach debris laid out in undulating lines of waves washing ashore, to be reclaimed and transported by the sea – speaking of connected waters.

Flotsam Painting, (2019) – Beach flotsam, oil and acrylic on canvas with plywood, glass and stainless steel – 157 x 213 x 20.5 cm

With a practice transcending the label of any one movement, Bickerton’s work is ever-evolving, with writer Paul Theroux warning “attempting a summing up of Bickerton’s vast and subversive body of work is pointlessly reductive”. His work persistently shifts – presenting a complex and multifaceted picture that defines our time.

Codswallop & Doggerel (2019) – Oil and acrylic on canvas – 179.5 x 169 x 5 cm

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