|Title:||Aboriginal artist Jimmy Pike (Kurntikujarra)|
|Keywords:||Aboriginal art, Aboriginal paintings, Australian art, Aboriginality, Aboriginal law, customary law, Aboriginal culture|
|Record creator:||Australian Overseas Information Service|
This colour photograph of Aboriginal artist Jimmy Pike was taken by the Commonwealth Government’s Australian Overseas Information Service in 1990, when he attended an exhibition of his work at the Nolan Gallery at Lanyon in Canberra. In the photograph Pike is leaning against a tree, wearing a shirt featuring one of his own designs. Part of the Lanyon property can be seen behind him.
Jimmy Pike (c1940–2002), a Walmajarri man, was born near Japingka in the north of Western Australia. He lived a traditional lifestyle in the Great Sandy Desert until his early teens when he came to live at Cherrabun Station. Pike was among the last of the Walmajarri to leave the desert and go north to the sheep and cattle stations in the river valleys of the Kimberley. The white station owner gave him the name Jimmy Pike after the champion jockey who rode Phar Lap.
Pike developed his signature style in painting and printmaking, telling traditional stories through the use of dual and aerial perspective, bold graphic lines and solid blocks of intense, often fluorescent colour. His unique style, which became internationally acclaimed, was developed as a result of art classes he took at Fremantle Prison while serving time for a tribal killing and was the basis on which the textiles company Desert Designs was founded.
From 1986 until his sudden death from a heart attack in 2002, Pike divided much of his time between his bush camp on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert and his coastal home in Broome, creating artwork which drew extensively on his life experiences. Portrayed through his artwork are the stories of his people and his knowledge of country, including waterholes, plants and animals, so crucial to survival in the desert.
From 1986 Pike’s wife Pat Lowe (1941–) lived with him at his desert camp, where she transcribed traditional stories of the local area and her husband’s childhood recollections, a project which produced a series of books illustrated by Pike with text by Lowe. After his death Lowe published In the Desert: Jimmy Pike as a Boy (2007), an account of her husband’s childhood memories.
Pike’s artistic career was relatively short but intensely productive, with some fifty individual and group exhibitions of his prints, textiles and paintings in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States. Pike challenged stereotypes of Indigenous art and assumptions that the desert was a bleak and lifeless expanse. His work is held by major national and international collections.
© Education Services Australia Ltd and National Archives of Australia, 2007-10