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Ashley Bickerton: The Women

June 5, 2012 by Kay

6 June–27 July 2012

Cardi Black Box Gallery

Cardi Black Box Gallery presents The Women, the first solo show at Cardi Black Box by the international artist Ashley Bickerton. On display is a new body of work that represents a further and deeper driving of the artist at the long-held goal of somehow managing to merge painting, photography, and sculpture seamlessly into one work.

"I have always loved painting, photography, and sculpture as discrete mediums in the work of others, but personally found them problematic as individual forms of expression in and of themselves. It is only in the admixture of the three that I feel truly comfortable.

"Painting alone always felt a bit too cartoony, photography a bit too cold, and sculpture, well I just never felt comfortable in the middle of a space.

"In the 'paintings' over the last several years, I started by painting directly on my human models as well as all their clothes and props. I then photographed them in a series of close-ups, before stitching it all together, now somewhat 'cubified,' in Photoshop. This was then printed out onto canvas where it was repainted again.

"Over time the paint/make up application on my models has gotten thicker and more brutal, the props and adornments more unreal. The overall effect is a kind of aping of fierce and emotional painterly-ness, but all this ultimately still held in place by photography's cool eye.

"My work from the very beginnings of my career has always, in some oblique manner, addressed the idea of what a painting is. Even the very early work with logos and electronic price counters in the late 80s was specifically addressing painting, never sculpture.

"A lot the best ideas over the years have come from staring at the work of some great artist or another that I had taken a fancy to, and deciding, 'Hey, I want to do that too!' The aforementioned logo pieces were an attempt to recreate Van Gogh's self portraits in a completely alien post modern language. Later in 2004 I riffed Kiefer in a series of landscapes, and in 2008 I turned my attention to the elephant in my island studio, finally dealing with the work of Paul Gauguin. The Gauguin-derived series were in every sense a parody of what a painting 'is,' while at the same time attempting to have them to exist as distinct works and language in their own right.

"It was with this newest series that I began to look very closely in the same manner at De Kooning's women. Again, I wanted to 'do' them. To ride that sharp edge between wry knowing cartoon and barely controlled, emotive 'pure painting.'

"This led to the decision to finally get rid of human models altogether. By constructing my own photographic subject, I could drive the photographed image further from recognizable reality, thus driving the wedge deeper between the painted and the photographed.

"I also began repainting them very differently. Whereas in the past the digital image had been 'totally' repainted, every square inch, with a thin layer of paint to create a kind of trompe l'oeil optical harmony, these new paint-oozing photographs would now be repainted with a much different intent. Now the paint was slapped on and only on parts, leaving much of the original photo visible, forcing an discordant optical discourse between the 'real' thick dripping paint and 'reproduction' of thick dripping paint.

"The Women were intentionally all formulated in an identical, confrontational, passport-style manner. Only the overall painting colour and mouth of each was allowed to differ. I went about making them with intentionally very little variation, but the construction of each was necessarily quick and emotional. The surprising result upon finishing was the degree to which they all stare happily back at the viewer, but each with their own distinctive character."

–Text by Ashley Bickerton

For more information, visit the Cardi Black Box Gallery website or email paola@cardiblackbox.com.