Jimmy Pike Jilji and Jimu
Jimmy Pike: Jimmu and Jilji
Jimmy Pike was born around 1940 in Great Sandy Desert, near Jila Japingka, 400 kilometres south of Fitzroy Crossing, a major water-hole in Western Australia and belonged to the Walmajarri people. 1 He was a prolific artist intent on sharing his knowledge and love of his desert home.
In the mid-1950s, Pike’s family was one of the last groups to move out of the desert, settling at Cherrabun station in the Kimberley region. As a young man Pike saw windmills, car tracks and other signs of European settlement for the very first time, on cattle station country. Some of his early works capture these memories. 2
Pike first explored the art materials of felt-pen drawing and linocut printing in the early 1980s. 3 As an inmate at Fremantle Prison, Pike attended art classes organised by Stephen Culley and David Wroth, who would later establish Desert Designs.4
In the 1980s, Pike’s innovative use of bold bright colours stood in contrast to the dominant forms of Aboriginal art of the time; the ochre toned bark and canvas paintings from Arnhem Land and Central Australia. Pike was also a trailblazer in the promotion of his art internationally. His imagery licensed to Desert Designs, became a fashion sensation not only in Australia but also in Japan, America and Europe.5 The significance of Jimmy Pike's works was probably best captured by Kim Akerman and Wally Caruana when they said:
'Pike launched a whole new palette in ways that would confound the purists of the time. His use of almost fluorescent blues, greens, yellows and reds and virtual abandonment of the iconography usually associated with Western Desert art was crucual in taking Indigenous art in another direction, into the wider application of contemporary Indigenous imagery in the commercial world of fabrics and fashion design...'.6
The Work of Art:
Jilji and Jimu by Jimmy Pike is a relatively recent acquisition to the Art Collection, University of Canberra. It is a lino-cut print created in 1998.7 It is a black and white print showing a series of lines like contours of a hilly area- perhaps the western desert terrain. Jimmy Pike learned the art of lino-cut printing in Freemantle in the early 1980s. Jimmy's approach to lino-carving was a similar technique to those used in the community settings- using a pocket knife carving boab nuts or into wooden artefacts. By moving the knife point back and forth it creates a serpentine effect. 8 Sometimes Jimmy's work could be quite symbolic whereas other times his work is quite abstract.
1 AIATSIS, 'Jimmy Pike' AIATSIS, Accessed 30 March 2020, https://aiatsis.gov.au/collection/featured-collections/jimmy-pike#toc-jila-japingka-birthplace-of-an-artist
6 The Jimmy Pike Trust, 'Jimmy Pike Biography' The Jimmy Pike Trust, Accesssed 3rd May 2022,https://www.jimmypiketrust.org.au/about/jimmy-pike/
7 Note: Artist's File, Curator's Cabinet, University of Canberra.
8 AIATSIS,' First impressions: Pike's early prints' AIATSIS, Accessed 3rd May 2022, https://aiatsis.gov.au/collection/featured-collections/jimmy-pike#toc-first-impressions-pike-s-early-prints