In this Ocula Insight, Ashley Bickerton—who has lived in Bali for the last 22 years, but who came to the forefront of the art world as a central figure in New York's vital East Village scene of the 1980s—discusses his work, and in particular how it has been influenced by both Bali and his time spent working at the Yogya Art Lab. Yogya Art Lab is based in the artistic enclave of Bantul, an area of Yogyakarta in Indonesia, and was established in 2012 by Gajah Gallery to cultivate craftsmanship by connecting artists with local artisans.
Ashley Bickerton. Courtesy the artist.
'Sometimes you take new directions in your work because you are driven to do so by pure theoretical or emotional motivations. Sometimes you make those moves simply because of opportunity. Let me elaborate, there are reasons that work I made years ago in New York looks very different from work I have done since in Bali. You go with what you have, some seeds just don't grow in certain environmental conditions, while in others they flourish. It would be impossible to make the kind of work I made in New York where I am now in Bali, there is not the fabrication infrastructure, the technology or the materials to build that sort of immaculate, high precision work.
Conversely, the work I have made in Bali likely could never have germinated in New York no matter how intent I was to midwife it into life. But things change. When you are suddenly given an opportunity to work in an entirely new area or medium, you jump on it. I have been given such opportunities a handful of times, the most recent being my collaborations with the Yogya Art Lab.
Ideas that would otherwise just sit and percolate around the back of your mind, suddenly get thrown on the table and you are being told, "We can do this, we can make this happen, and here's how we're going to do it." It's a really nice feeling for an artist with a lot of seemingly unrealisable ideas to be offered the opportunity and encouragement to just go ahead and make them with a full team of dedicated experts.'
This has been my experience working with YAL, continual happy surprise that these bubblings in my brain are suddenly real and tangible and right in front of you. Somebody tosses an idea at you and you reply, 'Really, we can do that?' That is how the sculpture Wahine Pa'ina came into being. I had long wondered what one of these Photoshopped and painted silver figures I have been working on would look like in three dimensions. I thought because of there being so much sculptural intricacy involved in their making, they would remain an unfulfilled dream. YAL convinced me otherwise." —[O]