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Jimmy Pike lives in a bush camp on the edge of the remote Great Sandy Desert of north-western Australia where he paints, producing art for which he has become so well known. Born in 1940, in remote sandhill country, Pike is a member of the Walmajarri people, one of the last groups to leave the desert and settle on cattle stations in the Kimberleys during the 1950s.
He spent his childhood as a nomad moving with his family around the various waterholes that were the focal points of their arid country. This country, its ancient culture and symbols are the things that inspire Pike’s work today.
For many years Pike supplemented his earnings by carving and selling artefacts. It wasn’t until 1981 that he was first introduced to Western style painting and discovered his talent for art. A few years later he set up his isolated camp in the desert where he still paints. He works in the open, resting his paintings on a rough work table he made from old planks. He stores his art and other materials under a heavy canvas fly, where he also takes refuge from the rare seasonal falls of rain.
Pike’s paintings of the physical and spiritual quality of his traditional Walmajarri country have added a new dynamism to the central positions of landscape in Australian art. They project a new dimension to our understanding of connections of place and identity. The artist’s themes of the intricacies of desert landscape, the visual character of the changing seasons and the particularities of its Aboriginal spirituality have transformed this extremely isolated area of the northern part of Australia into a tangible experience and a rare encounter with its beauty and sacredness. Pike is one of Australia’s most famous Aboriginal artists. He is represented in the collections of all the major Australian public galleries and museums.
Biography courtesy of the Australian Art Print Network, 2001.