Ashley Bickerton artist, born Barbados 26th May 1959; died Bali, Indonesia 30th November 2022. In 2021 he was diagnosed with ALS, (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a form of Motor Neurone Disease (MND). ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease without a cure that affects nerves in your brain and spinal cord that control your muscles. As your muscles get weaker, it gets harder for you to walk, talk, eat, and breathe.
Even though Ashley Bickerton was diagnosed with ALS he continued with his creative pursuits to the end.
“I don’t want any pity. I’m not really in the mood for that shit,” he says with resolution. “Life is to be lived and got on with, and I’m busy – too busy – for that.”Los Angeles Magazine: “Ashley Bickerton’s Art Is Having a Resurgence – but His Body Is in Decline” by Michael Slenske – 4th August 2021
Ashley Bickerton was just 63 years old when he died from ALS complications. He was a star on the global art scene. He is survived by his wife, Cherry Saraswati Bickerton and his three children.
A daring and singular voice, Ashley Bickerton was born in 1959 in Barbados. As a child, he grew up living in various countries across the globe, from Guyana to Ghana, England to Hawaii. He received his B.F.A from the California Institute of Arts in 1982 and graduated from the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1985.
In New York in the 1980s, Bickerton established what would later become an illustrious career. Alongside Jeff Koons, Peter Halley and Meyer Vaisman, Bickerton was part of the seminal Neo-Geo group, which emerged in response to the growing industrialisation and commercialism of the modern world.
Bickerton’s works during this period were marked by the use of brand names and consumer icons to critique society and represent the self. Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles), now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, features no sign of the artist’s face or body. Instead, it evokes “Ashley Bickerton” through the use of brand names like Renault, and the repetition of his trademark “Susie” along its sides.
In 1993, Bickerton permanently relocated to Bali, Indonesia. His work inevitably evolved—reflecting his sharp, satirical observations of the dilution and transformation of a remote island to an international tourist destination. His iconic Blue Man and cast of indigenous women painted in grotesque and lurid colours parody the West’s wild fantasies of a highly exotic East; his three-dimensional resin chunks of the ocean subvert the simplistic dichotomy between technology and nature; and his sharks cast in bronze transform fearsome creatures to the sacred embodiment of divine qualities.
Yet, despite his radical departure from North America to Southeast Asia, Bickerton’s self-reflexive, rebellious spirit has always undergirded his diverse and versatile oeuvre, driving his artistic practice to the heights of global critical acclaim.
“In a long and often breathless career, I feel I’ve pursued every reckless tangent with utterly no fidelity to any stylistic cohesion, but nevertheless in this tangle I knew inherently there was a larger overarching language that was distinctly my own.”Ashley Bickerton
Bickerton’s works reside in numerous public and private collections internationally including those of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The Broad (Los Angeles), Tate Britain (London), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Italy), Museu Coleção Berardo (Lisbon), Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Tokyo, Japan), among others.
Our thoughts and condolences are with his family, his wife Cherry Saraswati Bickerton, his three children and the artistic communities of which he was a part.
The Bickerton Barbados Connection
Ashley Bickerton (1959 – 2022) was the son of the English writer and linguist Derek Bickerton (1926 – 2018), who taught at The Lodge School, Barbados as an English teacher in the late 1950s. Prof. Sir Henry Fraser tells us Derek Bickerton taught him English when he was in the fourth form in 1957.
Derek Bickerton was born in England and graduated from the University of Cambridge, England in 1949. He worked for a time in the Caribbean. He also held post at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana; the University of Leeds in the UK and at the University of Guyana before settling in Hawaii where he became a well respected academic in English and linguistics at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. Derek and Yvonne Bickerton had three children: Jim, Ashley and Julie.
Ashley Bickerton’s father Derek Bickerton was a world-famous linguist and author who wrote scholarly books about creole languages, human evolution, the brain, but also poetry and novels. One novel about riots in Barbados in a serious drought was serialised in the Sunday Advocate, but doesn’t seem ever to have been published in book form says Prof. Sir Henry Fraser.
For further information on Ashely Bickerton see :
- Ashley Bickerton’s Instagram page with a very moving video at the start where he talks about his ALS.
- Ashley Bickerton’s web page.
- Gajah Gallery in Singapore profile of Ashley Bickerton.
- “Paul Theroux on how artist Ashley Bickerton became an alien in paradise” – Guardian 31st March 2017.
- “Ashley Bickerton’s Art Is Having a Resurgence – but His Body Is in Decline” – Los Angeles Magazine by Michael Slenske, 4th August 2021. Ashley Bickerton was very open about having ALS. The latter part of Michael Slenske’s interview with Ashley Bickerton gives some insight of how he was coping with ALS.
Gerrianne Richards a Bajan living in Singapore sent us the above notice of the passing of Ashley Bickerton. The announcement of Ashley Bickerton’s death was originally published by The Gajah Gallery in Singapore via email and via their Facebook page. The Gajah Gallery have since 2013 worked with Ashley Bickerton and staged two solo exhibitions: Junk Anthropologies in 2014 and Heresy or Codswallop in 2021.
Our thanks to Prof. Sir Henry Fraser for the Barbados connection.