Heresy or Codswallop
Gajah Gallery, Singapore
January 19, 2021 – February 14, 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. Gajah Gallery is proud to announce ‘Heresy or Codswallop’, the second solo exhibition in Singapore for internationally acclaimed American artist, Ashley Bickerton, who has lived and worked in Bali for almost 30 years. Presenting one of the most comprehensive surveys of his work to date, ‘Heresy or Codswallop’ brings together the last decade of Bickerton’s ever-evolving practice, featuring works from 2011 to the present day.
Bickerton‘s work persistently shifts, whether reactively or in anticipation, to best reflect current concerns – presenting a complex and multifaceted picture that defines our time. After achieving early success in New York in the 1980s together with his peers Jeff Koons, Peter Halley and Meyer Vaisman – Bickerton left for Bali in 1993, in search of a deeper connection to his practice. There, he observed the transformation of the once-remote Indonesian island into an international tourist destination. Since his move, several elements have frequently appeared – 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, once described as “trophy wives”. In a self-reflective and satirical twist, Bickerton often uses family and friends as the models for these personas – the silver lady often resembling his Balinese wife, while he appears in self-portraits as the blue man. Through his sculptural works, Bickerton explores other facets of island-life: ‘TITNW5’ features an imposing coral-like exterior, hiding the sordid underbelly of a hedonistic tourist industry; the awe-inspiring ‘Shark’ presented in bronze as a totemic object from regions beyond. 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. Known for his scathing social commentaries, Bickerton’s work critiques the fantasy of the island utopia, exploring its reality as a de-cultured touristic locale that has been reconstructed to feed the westernized paradise ideal.
‘Heresy or Codswallop‘ brings together 19 major artworks from 6 of Bickerton’s celebrated series: ‘Blue Man’, ‘Mitochondrial Eve’, ‘Silver Ladies’, ‘Coral’, ‘Wall-Wall’, and ‘Flotsam’ – in addition to several new paintings and sculptures. Each series embodies a distinct visual language employing a variety of materials including canvas, jute, aluminium, bronze, steel, wood, and found objects. An exhibition catalog published in conjunction with the opening will feature a critical essay by art writer Gregory Galligan, providing an extensive look at Bickerton’s practice from the 90s to today.
‘Heresy or Codswallop’ will on view at Gajah Gallery from 20 January to 14 February, opening in conjunction with Singapore Art Week and SEA Focus. A dialogue with the artist Ashley Bickerton and writer Gregory Galligan will be held online on 28 January from 5-6pm. The exhibition will run until 14 February.