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Jimmy Pike

April 13, 2009

It may seem to some that I’m constantly attending exhibition openings, launches and events, but this is not the case!

However, last Wednesday night, I attended the opening of ‘Desert Psychedelic’ an exhibition of textiles and prints by the late Jimmy Pike held at Artisan.

What a fabulously colourful retrospective of Jimmy Pike’s work, full of raw energy, enthusiasm and truth to materials. Visually stunning, this show is more than eye candy, it has depth, shows his innovation and is not locked to a particular period in time.

Jimmy Pike is from the nomadic Walmajarri people in the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, and his early years saw him grow up on the land. As times changed in Australia, his people moved north and Pike ended up working as a stockman on a cattle station. This was a difficult time for him and his people as they came into contact with alcohol and Pike served a number of years in prison.

It was in prison that he took art classes and his teachers, Stephen Culley and David Wroth, nurtured his exceptional talent. “Committed to maintaining the cultural integrity of Pike’s work and to creating an economically meaningful environment for his creative output” they started the business Desert Designs, a canvas for his work, which appeared on rugs, bed linen, accessories and garments and was thriving when he was released from prison in 1986.

One of the things I find fascinating about his approach (apart from his renegade use of non-traditional colours in his work) was the fact that his repeat patterns were not initially created for repeat. They were originally artworks that were transcribed from one media to another. His graphic use of linework is bold, engaging and very descriptive. “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 his mythological past, that had a specific meaning for him.”

For me, Pike’s work is testament to the power of story telling in creative practice – the ability to make connections in time, place and space. Whether in architecture, textile design, art, craft, film, theatre, photography, whatever the practice, the underlying story is what sets engaging work apart from ‘surface design’ or copyist behaviour.

This synergistic and honest approach is one I am striving for in my own work.

Thank you Jimmy Pike for your vibrant designs which have stood the test of time, and to Artisan for curating such a vivid and accurate representation of his work.

I would highly recommend reading the succinct catalogue for the show (from which I have quoted in this post) with text by Kirsten Fitzpatrick (also the curator).

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