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1985 1986 1987
c 1940 - 2002
1987 The Fourth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1987 Galerie Exler, Frankfurt 1987 Art and Aboriginality, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, UK 1987 Addendum Gallery, Fremantle 1988 Blaxland Galleries, Sydney 1988 Australian Aboriginal Graphics from the Collection of the Flinders University Art Museum 1989 Prints by Seven Australian Aboriginal Artists (international touring exhibition, through Print Council and The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) 1989 Aboriginal Art: The Continuing Tradition, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1990 l’ete Australien a’ Montpellier, Musee Fabre Gallery Montpellier, France 1990 Balance 1990: views, visions, influences, QAG, Brisbane 1990 Contemporary Aboriginal Art from the Robert Holmes a Court Collection, Harvard University, University of Minnesota, Lake Oswego Centre for the Arts 1990 Tagari Lia: My Family, Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990 – from Australia, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, UK 1991 Flash Pictures, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1991 The Eighth National Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1992 Working in the Round, Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide 1992 Crossroads – Towards a New Reality, Aboriginal Art from Australia, National Museums of Modern Art, Kyoto and Tokyo 1992 The Ninth Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1992/3 New Tracks Old Land: An Exhibition of Contemporary Prints from Aboriginal Australia, touring the USA and Australia 1993 The Tenth Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin 1993 Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Old Parliament House, Canberra 1993 Images of Power, Aboriginal Art of the Kimberly, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 1. Jilji Life in the Great Sandy Desert with Pat Lowe, illustrated by Jimmy Pike Magabala Books 1990 Short-listed for two awards. 2. Yinti - desert child, with Pat Lowe, illustrated by Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books 1992. 3. To Jupurr Short story by Pat Lowe, illustrated by Jimmy Pike, in New Writing Ed. Beth Yahp and Nicholas Jose. Picador 1997. 4. Desert Dog Children’s book by Pat Lowe, illustrated by Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books 1997. Winner, Children’s Literature Prize, WA Premier’s Book Awards 1999. Notable Book, Children’s Book Council. 5. Jimmy and Pat Meet the Queen By Pat Lowe, Illustrated by Jimmy Pike. Humorous book for all ages. Backroom Press, 1997. Has been adapted for play with same title. 6. Desert Cowboy by Pat Lowe, Children’s book, Magabala Books, 2000. 7. Illustrations for Jimmy and Pat Go to China, Backroom Press, 2006. 8. Biographical: In the Desert — Jimmy Pike as a Boy by Pat Lowe, Penguin Books Australia, 2007. Work reproduced in many publications, educational texts, catalogues etc. cOmmiSSiOnS Australian Museum, Sydney; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Flinders University Art Museum, Adelaide; Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Surfers Paradise, Queensland; Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Maritime Museum, Darwin Harbour, Sydney; Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra; Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; The Holmes a Court Collection, Perth
1991 1995 1996 1997
Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Melbourne. Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney. Black Swan Gallery, Fremantle. Ben Grady Gallery, Fremantle Tynte Gallery, Adelaide. Seibu Shibuya, Tokyo. Birukmarri Gallery, Sydney. Capricorn Gallery, Port Douglas. Tynte Gallery, Adelaide. Blaxland Gallery, Sydney and Melbourne. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London. Retrospective: Art Gallery of WA. Westpac Gallery, Melbourne. Friendship Gallery, Hefei, PRC. Durack Gallery, Broome. Fireworks Gallery, Brisbane. Framed Gallery, Darwin. Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Canberra. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London. The Sixteenth Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin. Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Canberra. Japingka Gallery, Fremantle WA The Seventeenth Aboriginal Art Award Exhibition, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin Australian Heritage Commission National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibition, Canberra. Pinacoteca d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bivongi, Reggio Calabria, Italy and Museo Caproni, Mattarello de Trento, Italy. Short Street Gallery, Broome Western Australia. Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London.
artisan would like to thank Stephen Culley and David Wroth from Desert Designs for the loan of the textiles and prints, and Ngaio Fitzpatrick (fashion designer Desert Designs 1986-1989) for lending the garments. We also gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Pat Lowe. Desert Psychedelic was opened by the Patron of artisan - idea:skill:product, Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensely, AO, Governor of Queensland. PRINCIPLE SPONSOR
a 381 BRUNSWICK ST FORTITUDE VALLEY QLD, AUSTRALIA 4006 p 0732150800 e GALLERY@ARTISAN.ORG.AU W WWW.ARTISAN.ORG.AU tueS - Fri 10:30AM - 5:30PM Sat 10:00AM - 4:00PM Jimmy Pike : Desert Psychedellic PUBLISHER: artisan ISBN: 978-0-9805744-1-8 COVER IMAGE: Jila 1983, texta pen on paper. Image courtesy of Desert Designs
1984 1985 1987 1987 Her Majesty’s Theatre, Perth Contemporary Aboriginal Art, Praxis, Fremantle Print Council Gallery, Melbourne Recent Aboriginal Art of Western Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
artisan receives financial assistance from its majoy sponsors, Arts Queensland (State Government) and the Australia Council, the Commonwealth Government’s arts funding and advisory board.
gallery artisan 8 April - 30 May 2009
Jimmy Pike, a Walmajarri man, was born in the Great Sandy Desert and grew up as a hunter and gatherer. With his family he travelled his sandhill country on foot, learning the name of every waterhole and of every animal and plant, learning to provide for all his needs. But this ancient way of life was coming to an end. Jimmy, like other members of his family, joined the drift north to the sheep and cattle stations of the river valleys, where life was said to be much easier than in the sandhills and food more plentiful. He joined his relations on Old Cherrabun Station, where he worked as a stockman. Jimmy was influenced by Christianity but, along with many of his peers, he also learnt to drink. He got into trouble with the law and served a number of years in prison. It was in the prison art class that Jimmy learnt to paint. He developed his own distinctive style and soon became well-known, through exhibitions of his work and through Desert Designs, the fashion label that used his designs on fabric and other goods. When he had completed his parole, Jimmy moved to Broome with his long-term partner, Pat Lowe, but returned to the desert from time to time. Jimmy and Pat collaborated on a series of books based on Jimmy’s childhood.
Jimmy pike started working with western art materials and techniques while imprisoned in the 1980s, and within a comparatively short time was producing powerful drawings, paintings and prints which are now housed in major national and international collections. Born out of his intimate knowledge of some of the hardest country in the world, they offered a revelatory insight into the desert. Pike’s art was so extraordinary that it inspired his teachers at the time, Stephen Culley and David Wroth, to launch Desert Designs, a company that would gain Pike worldwide recognition through the application of his art to textiles. Pike’s talent was exceptional. As Culley recalls, after an early print-making class with Wroth, Pike took some lino blocks back to his cell and, using his pre-existing carving skills, returned with a set of lino-cuts that ‘Matisse would have been proud of’1.. Pike proved to be a master of line, and black and white design, but also a brilliant colourist. Preferring to work with felt-tip markers, as they had a frequency and luminosity not found in paint, he captured the essence of the desert in highly abstracted landscapes that shimmered with an often fluorescent intensity. Pike was a forerunner in the use of what, at the time, was considered to be ‘nontraditional’ colours. Culley and Wroth were committed to maintaining the cultural integrity of Pike’s work and to creating an economically meaningful environment for his creative output. By the time Pike was released from prison in 1986, Desert Designs was flourishing. Pike’s distinctive prints appeared on rugs, bed linen, accessories and garments ranging from fashion to active-wear. Flagship stores opened in Sydney, Surfers Paradise and Fremantle, and later in France, and the most exclusive department stores in the world carried the label. Desert Designs was an international phenomenon, and it was Pike’s textiles that made it so. These textiles had a universal resonance but a uniquely Australian quality as well.
Many fashion houses and textile designers had tried to create this in the preceding decades. During the 1940s and 1950s, Nance MacKenzie, Annie Outlaw, and Frances Bourke, amongst other designers, were appropriating indigenous imagery to this end, but it was devoid of its cultural and spiritual significance. It became surface pattern. Their designs were also dictated by seasonal colour or fashion trends, and instantly identifiable with a certain era. Later, in the 1980s, wellknown Australian fashion designers, including Katie Pye, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson worked collaboratively with Indigenous designs and artists, to generate identifiably ‘Australian’ textiles and garments, but the Desert Designs textiles stood apart. The distinction in Pike’s work was not only in terms of international commercial success, but in the unique nature of the collaboration with Desert Designs. Culley and Wroth were
not in the textile or fashion industry, and Pike was not producing textile designs. The fact that his work was to be printed on fabric and applied to accessories and garments, had no impact on the subject matter, intent or execution. Rather than beginning by designing a repeat pattern for printing, Pike’s existing paintings, drawings or prints were painstakingly adapted into repeats, enabling them to be printed on textile lengths. This created a highly distinctive range of dynamic and often intricately patterned fabrics. Pike was a versatile artist who worked comfortably with an astonishing breadth of style, imagery and scale. He was equally at home depicting delicate desert flowers or massive expanses of sand. These works had nothing to do with the dictates of seasonal fashion. His art was the outcome of a deep physical and spiritual connection with his land. It emerged from a strong urge to record places or events, either from his past or from the mythological past, that had a specific meaning for him. For Pike, the desert was no empty wasteland, but a visually and culturally rich environment. The minimal linework of Rakarrarla-Kumanta, depicts an early morning sunrise over the desert: the moment the rays colour the sandhills. Jila Japingka, which became one of the signature Desert Designs prints, depicts Japingka, the main waterhole for his country and people. Linear designs, such as Rakarrarla-Kumanta, were initially screen-printed on cotton in Australia, using one or two colors, but the multi-colored prints such as Jila Japingka, which demanded many separations, were printed in Japan. These bright, brilliantlyhued textiles, characterized the exuberant Desert Designs garments from the late eighties and early nineties. Pike’s designs were subsequently printed on a wide range of materials. His imagery already pulsated with movement through his use of oscillating, ragged white lines on a black ground, or the juxtaposition of colours that sang against each other, but each fabric added another dimension to this. Whether emblematic against ski-fabrics, glowing jewel-like on
silk or drifting weightlessly on chiffons, the textiles vibrated with energy. Pike’s art made the Desert Designs textiles timeless but the fashion garments were characteristic of their time in structure and cut, and subject to industry shifts. Following major global financial changes, issues with the company producing the fashion label, and the fact that, under the rising influence of Japanese fashion designers, ‘all through the nineties everyone wore black’2. , Desert Designs stores eventually closed. The skiwear, swim-wear and other products did keep selling internationally.
2002 leaving a legacy of unique paintings and prints that made an invaluable contribution to Australian landscape art, an extraordinary collection of textiles, astonishing in their number and diversity, and many book illustrations. The Desert Designs fashion label was relaunched in Australia in 2003, again using Pike’s textiles, but this time printed in subtle, tonal colour-ways on luxury fabrics including stretch silk-satins. Pike’s prints, such as Partiri, were pared back to their elemental structure and re-interpreted as acid-etched lace. Ethereal and sophisticated, these new garments revealed the flexibility of these textile designs. Desert Psychedelic offers an opportunity to celebrate Jimmy Pike’s achievements and acknowledge his position as not only one of the great Indigenous artists, but also one of the greatest Australian textile designers of the 20th century.
Kirsten Fitzpatrick, curator (artisan)
Jimmy Pike travelled to other countries to paint and hold exhibitions of his work: the Philippines, China, Namibia, Italy and the United Kingdom. Wherever he went, he made an impression through his art and personality. Jimmy died in 2002. Pat Lowe, 2009
Pike’s artistic career continued. He and his long-term partner, Pat Lowe, a psychologist he had met while in prison, spent several years together in the desert. Pat collected the stories of Jimmy’s country and subsequently published books, which Pike illustrated. These included children’s stories, travel tales and, in Jimmy & Pat Meet the Queen, a lighthearted look at the issue of Aboriginal land ownership. There had always been a narrative basis to Pike’s art, as it was a way of telling his stories and connecting with country, and book illustration was a natural extension of his talents. Pike also continued to paint and exhibit his work internationally, including solo shows in London and a joint exhibition with the artist Zhou Xiaoping, in China. Jimmy Pike died in
1. Kirsten Fitzpatrick interview with Stephen Culley 24/02/09 2. s above bibliography - Cochrane, G. The Crafts Movement in Australia: a history NSW University Press, NSW 1992 - Lowe, P. In The Desert: Jimmy Pike as a Boy Penguin Books, VIC 2007 - O’Ferrall, M. and Pike, J. Jimmy Pike: Desert Designs 1981-1995 Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth,1995 - Amadio, N. ‘The Song of Jimmy Pike’ Jimmy Pike: Graphics from the Christensen Fund Collection Exhibition Catalogue 1988 IMAGES: (far left) Rakarrarla-Kumanta textile c 1988, (left) Jilji and Jumu, print 1989 (right, top-bottom) Desert Designs fashion c 1988, Desert Designs fashion c 1988, Desert Designs fashion 2003, (background) Jila Japingka, textile 1986. All images courtesy of Desert Designs.
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