PAINTING 'ROCK PYTHON'
Large, square, acrylic painting by Jimmy Pike, depicting a python, three kangaroos, a smaller snake and a goanna, painted on a two colour wash background (black background with fine green undercoat). A fat python dominates the centre of the painting with a brown head, red/yellow eye, and with red and yellow markings on the cheek. The python's body is decorated with dots in red, yellow, white, black and green and the tip of the python's tail is painted orange, banded with nine white stripes. Three kangaroos are depicted on one side of the python, two decorated with coloured dots and stripes, the other painted orange with a rough outline of its skeleton in white. On the other side of the python is a smaller snake, also decorated with coloured dots and outlined in white. A small green goanna, painted in dot style, is located in the space between the python's head and tail. The painting is painted on Masonite board. Written on the reverse of the painting in white chalk is, 'Title - ROCK Python/ Name Jimmy PiKe/ 6/ Kimberleys.'
The painting was found in Women’s Division in 2010, stacked behind furniture.
Jimmy Pike was a Walmajarri man, born around 1940. He grew up in the sand hills of the Great Sandy Desert, leading a traditionally nomadic life, before beginning work as a stockman on stations in the Kimberley.
Pike was convicted of murder in 1980 and sent to Fremantle Prison. It was whilst in prison that Pike began to focus more on producing art. Making the most of the opportunities offered, Pike worked in the Prison’s different industries, including the Boot Shop and the garden party, and also attended a class in English literacy where he learnt to read and write, before joining the Prison’s art class.
Though he had grown up carving designs in wood, these art classes were his first experience of formal tuition. Pike participated in classes run by art teacher Steve Culley, and it was a print making workshop, which Pike didn't actually attend, that was the catalyst for his extraordinary talent to emerge. The story, as told by Steve Culley, is that despite not attending the print making workshop, which was run by printmaking tutor David Wroth, Pike asked if he could take a stack of blank linoleum blocks back to his cell over the weekend. The artworks he subsequently produced over the next few days had both Steve Culley and David Wroth amazed. In Culley’s own words, this was, “the moment when the genius became absolutely undeniable”. It was from this event that the Desert Designs brand was born.
The company, co-founded by Wroth and Culley, used designs created and licensed by Jimmy Pike. The brand heralded the height of the Aboriginal cultural renaissance, bringing Aboriginal design into the households, and wardrobes, of thousands of white, urban Australians.
Upon his release from Fremantle Prison in 1986, Pike spent his parole years living in the Great Sandy Desert with his partner Pat Lowe, a former prison psychologist. He continued to draw and paint, and produce work for the Desert Designs label. He died in 2002 after suffering a heart attack.